Wembley Stadium, London
April 14, 2013; 16:00 GMT
FA Cup holders, Chelsea, will take on Manchester City to book a place in the final against Wigan Athletic, who defeated Millwall 2-0 on Saturday, but not before Millwall’s supporters had yet again let their club down by resorting to violence just after Roberto Martinez’s men scored their second goal.
Having first appeared in an FA Cup final in 1915 against Sheffield United, Chelsea had to wait till 1970 to lift the prestigious trophy when they defeated bitter rivals Leeds United in the famous final that took place at Old Trafford. Since then, Chelsea have won the competition 7 times; they were the last club to win the trophy at the Old Wembley in 2000 and the first to achieve the feat at the New Wembley in 2007. So impeccable is their recent record that in the last four seasons, the trophy has come back to Stamford Bridge thrice.
Yet, on Sunday, they’ll come face to face with a side who surely fear neither their opponents nor their record at Wembley. Chelsea have only managed to defeat Man City twice in their last 9 meetings, losing 6 and drawing the remaining game. Even this season, after a 3-2 loss in the Community Shield curtain-raiser, they lost 2-0 at The Etihad while drawing 0-0 at The Bridge.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Demba Ba is still recovering from an ankle knock, while Gary Cahill (knee) and Ashley Cole (hamstring) will miss the trip to Wembley. However, the good news for Rafa would be the availability of Ryan Bertrand, who’s believed to have recovered from his illness.
Rafa Benitez will start with a 4-2-3-1 formation, but will choose to leave out John Terry and Frank Lampard from the starting line-up. In such a scenario, Ivanovic and Luiz will form the centre-back partnership with Azpilicueta and Bertrand taking their respective positions at right and left full-back respectively, in front of Petr Cech. Rafa is likely to opt for Mikel and Ramires in the double pivot to counter the combined threat posed by the physical presence of Yaya Toure, Barry and Milner. Chelsea are expected to deploy their three creative playmakers in Mata, Hazard, and Oscar together behind Fernando Torres (or Demba Ba should he regain fitness and should Rafa opt for him), in order to exploit the space between the lines to put City under pressure right from the onset.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand; Mikel, Ramires; Mata, Oscar; Hazard; Torres
Roberto Mancini has a big headache ahead of the clash against Chelsea; David Silva is struggling with a hamstring injury and his availability is subject to a late fitness test. Richards (knee), Rodwell (hamstring), Maicon (foot) remain unavailable for the match.
Joe Hart hasn’t featured for City in the FA Cup after the 2011 final win against Stoke City, which ended a 35-year trophy drought at the club. In his stead, 6’8″ Romanian keeper Costel Pantilimon has featured in the competiton is yet to concede a goal. So far, Mancini hasn’t revealed who would start against Chelsea, but it is believed that Pantilimon may be given the nod ahead of his English counterpart.
City will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, and Clichy forming the defence behind the powerful and relentless presence of Toure and Barry in midfield. Ahead of them, if Silva isn’t able to recover in time, Nasri, Milner and Aguero are expected to start, along with Carlos Tevez.
This match may eventually boil down to how Chelsea’s creative talents deal with City’s defensive midfielders, who will have to be at their absolute best to keep Mata & co. in check and whether Tevez is able to do what he has more often than not done against Chelsea.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Toure, Barry; Milner, Nasri, Aguero; Tevez
- Excluding penalty shoot-outs, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 29 FA Cup matches; winning 23 and drawing six.
- No team has reached the FA Cup final without conceding since Everton in 1966; City are just one match away from this record.
Player (s) To Watch Out For
Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Juan Mata has featured in 53 of the 57 games that Chelsea has played this season, scoring 18 goals and having more assists to his name than any other player in the Premier League; that’s the kind of impact he has had in an otherwise tumultuous season for Chelsea. In the FA Cup this season, he has scored once but has still managed to provide as many as five assists. If Chelsea are to cope without Drogba’s majestic record at Wembley, Mata will have to dictate proceedings from behind the striker, whosoever that may be.
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Carlos Tevez has been absolutely phenomenal against Chelsea, scoring eight times in 10 games against the Blues. In the FA Cup this season, he has five goals to his name and come Sunday, Mancini will hope that the Argentinean continues to torment Chelsea.
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City
Although both teams come into this game after decent results, the psychological advantage that Chelsea have over their rivals because of their impeccable record at Wembley, may just tilt the balance of the tie slightly in their favor. Having said that, this is a very, very close game to call.
Blast From The Past
This is only the forth time that Chelsea and Manchester City will meet in the FA Cup, since the West London club was established in 1905, and the for the first time in 42 years! The last time these two sides met, it was in 1971 when Chelsea were defending champions as is the case in 2013.
For more on that match in 1971, please read the fabulously written article on The Guardian by Rob Bagchi.