Chelsea vs. Man City
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Kick off: 5:30PM
Dreams of a continental and domestic double will end for Chelsea or Manchester City this afternoon, as the two sides lock horns in today’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.
Both clubs booked their spots in the semi-finals of the Champions League in midweek, as Thomas Tuchel’s men overcame Porto 2-1 on aggregate while Pep Guardiola’s quarter-final hoodoo ended with a dominant 4-2 success over two legs against Borussia Dortmund.
Chelsea are aiming to go one better in the FA Cup after losing to Arsenal in last season’s final, while Man City were knocked out at this stage by the Gunners in the 2019-20 tournament.
Tuchel has already endeared himself to the Chelsea faithful with his side’s free-flowing attacking sequences and dogged defensive unit since replacing Frank Lampard at the helm, and another European crown would be the perfect way for the former Paris Saint-Germain manager to prove his worth to the club’s notoriously trigger-happy hierarchy, although he may have to get one over his old club in the final should Chelsea get there.
The Blues are far from guaranteed a spot in Europe’s elite competition via their league position, though, as they sit one point adrift of fourth-placed West Ham United following their humbling at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, although they did at least manage to put Crystal Palace to the sword last time out domestically.
A 3-1 win over Luton Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup signalled the end of Lampard’s tenure in the Stamford Bridge hotseat, and Tuchel has, unsurprisingly, navigated tests against Barnsley and Sheffield United without seeing his defence breached in the previous two rounds.
Should the Blues manage to get one over perennial cup winners Man City, it will mark the fourth time in five seasons that they have reached the showpiece event in England’s premier cup competition – with a fifth-round defeat to Manchester United in 2018-19 being the only exception – and a 15th final would put them third on the all-time list behind Arsenal (21) and Man United (20).
Tuchel’s first two defeats in the Stamford Bridge hotseat hardly requires the panic button to be pressed, and the fatigued Blues’ goal-shy showing in midweek did not matter whatsoever as they booked their place in the Champions League semis, but the normally-resilient Chelsea defence now boasts just one clean sheet in four games.
Even though an FA Cup triumph would not be enough to secure a spot in next season’s Champions League, a first piece of silverware would go a long way to securing Tuchel’s future in the Blues’ dugout, as whoever comes up trumps in this tie will certainly be favourites to overcome Leicester City or Southampton on May 15.
With an 11-point lead at the top and six games left to play in the Premier League, City are cruising to another top-flight crown, and Guardiola’s dominance of the EFL Cup scene could continue against Tottenham Hotspur in next weekend’s final, but the charismatic Catalan coach has not always been able to stamp his authority on the FA Cup.
Indeed, the Manchester giants have only ever reached the final once in the last eight seasons – thrashing Watford 6-0 in the 2018-19 showpiece event – and Guardiola was outdone by his former student Mikel Arteta at this stage last season, as City lost 2-0 to Arsenal in the final four.
However, with an astonishing 28 wins to boast from their last 30 across all competitions – notwithstanding their shock defeat to Leeds United last time out in the Premier League – City’s players will undoubtedly march to Wembley with thoughts of an unprecedented quadruple racing through their minds, although they must extinguish such fantasies for at least 90 minutes today.
Guardiola’s men have overcome Birmingham City, Cheltenham Town, Swansea City and Everton to book their spot in the semi-finals – scoring at least twice in all four of those games – and if their stints in Germany are anything to go by, Guardiola certainly enjoys coming up against teams coached by Tuchel.
The former Bayern Munich manager did not taste defeat in any of his five meetings with Tuchel between 2013 and 2016 – winning three and drawing two against his counterpart – but the German’s Chelsea outfit command plenty of respect.
One of these English powerhouses will see their dreams of FA Cup glory dashed this afternoon, but if Chelsea and City continue to produce the goods in Europe, an all-English Champions League final between the two teams in blue is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Chelsea possible XI: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, James, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso, Mount, Werner, Havertz.
Man City possible XI: Steffen, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Jesus, Foden.