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Chelsea v Manchester United
Emirates FA Cup Final
Saturday, May 19th, Wembley Stadium 5:15pm

By John Spillane

For the third time, two of England’s glamour sides come face to face in the final of the oldest cup competition in the world which was first contested in 1872. This ties with Arsenal-Liverpool, Arsenal-Newcastle United and Aston Villa-West Bromwich Albion as the most played of the 137 finals. In previous encounters both sides have one win apiece, with Manchester United winning 4-0 in 1994 and Chelsea, under the management of Jose Mourinho, victorious 1-0 in 2007, courtesy of a Didier Drogba goal in the 116th minute.

As a result of Manchester City’s domination of the Premier League both sides come into Saturday’s showpiece occasion on the back of relatively disappointing seasons. Even though Mourinho’s side finished as runner up (19 points in arears) they were never really in contention for the league title at any time. Despite improving their league performance to finish in their highest position since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson (7-4-5-6-2) they still appear to have some way to go before they can realistically think of a return to their former glories. The signings of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez should have brought a greater goal return for the team, but Pogba and Sanchez especially have yet to provide full value for money.

Defending league champions Chelsea repeated their recent failure by following a title winning season with curiously disjointed campaigns (2014-15 1st, 2015-16 10th, 2016-17 1st, 2017-18 5th). Despite a very late flourish, which at one stage looked like throwing them a Champions league qualification lifeline, they finished fifth, 11 points worse off than Wembley opponents, with Antonio Conte’s future appearing to be elsewhere. As with the latter days of Mourinho second spell some of Chelsea’s players seem once again to be picking and choosing their games, as a 1-0 home defeat of Liverpool was followed by a 1-1 draw with Huddersfield and then a miserable display to end the league season in the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle United. Hopefully they can raise their game for this one off occasion, as their opponents in last year’s final Arsenal were able to do so effectively.

Route to the final
Norwich City (a) 0-0 (h) 1-1 (5-3 penalties) Round 3
Newcastle United (h) 3-0 Round 4
Hull City (h) 4-0 Round 5
Leicester City (a) 2-1 aet Round 6
Southampton 2-0 semi-final

Manchester United
Derby County (a) 2-0 Round 3
Yeovil Town (a) 4-0 Round 4
Huddersfield Town (a) 2-0 Round 5
Brighton and Hove Albion (h) 2-0 Round 6
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 semi-final

In league matches between the two this season, both sides were victorious at home. Thanks to an Alvaro Morata header Chelsea won 1-0 in November before losing 2-1 at Old Trafford in February, having taken the lead. On the coaching side, Jose Mourinho’s record in Cup finals, domestic and European is very impressive having been successful on 12 of the 14 occasions, whereas Conte has both his finals. United’s record this season when facing the other members of the top six is W6, D1, L3 from the 10 encounters. Chelsea’s record in comparison is W3, D3, L4.

Both sides have numerous potential winners with the likes of Eden Hazard, Olivier Giroud and Willian for Chelsea, while depending on fitness and selection Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, along with Alexis Sanchez (eight goals in eight Wembley appearances) who seems to have a knack of scoring on the big occasions, could be the difference makers.

Much may depend on the approach to the game and whether Antonio Conte risks playing Cesc Fabregas in a midfield two, rather than supporting him with both Kante and Bakayoko, as his ability to perform his defensive duties has diminished in recent times. United appearing in a record equalling 20th final, are looking to tie Arsenal with a 13th win, while Chelsea in their 13th are seeking an eighth success.

In an even looking final, with plenty of firepower on show, the game could well go into extra-time with a Draw and Both Teams To Score bet worth considering.

Suggested bet : Match Result and Both Teams To Score : Draw (available at 7-2)

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