Chelsea and Crystal Palace will lock horns with each other in the second semi-final clash of the 2021/22 FA Cup at Wembley on Sunday.

An all-London FA Cup semi-final will play out on Sunday afternoon at Wembley as Chelsea and Crystal Palace battle against each other for a place in the showpiece event next month, where they will come up against either Manchester City or Liverpool.

Chelsea began their FA Cup journey with an easy win over Chesterfield in the third round. But they were pushed to the brink by Plymouth Argyle and Luton Town in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Having survived the scare, Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in the quarter-finals. They head into the game on the back of a 3-2 win over Real Madrid, although that was not enough to keep them alive in the UEFA Champions League.

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, progressed to the penultimate stage of the FA Cup after seeing off challenges from Millwall, Hartlepool United and Stoke City before thumping Everton 4-0 in the quarter-finals. Patrick Vieira’s side had been on a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions, including a draw against Manchester City and a win versus Arsenal. But that was halted last weekend by a defeat to Leicester City.

Chelsea have prevailed over Crystal Palace in both their meetings this season, winning 3-0 and 1-0, although the latter match was an evenly-contested affair. Ahead of this exciting encounter at Wembley, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

Chelsea have greeted some good news on the injury front as Romelu Lukaku has returned to training after missing the last two games against Southampton and Real Madrid. Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi remain the only absentees for the Blues heading into the clash at Wembley.

Chelsea lined up in a 3-4-1-2 setup against Real Madrid earlier in the week and could stick with a similar formation on Sunday. Edouard Mendy would be the man guarding the goal for the Blues ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Reece James was utilised as a right-sided centre-back to counter the threat of Vinicius Junior in midweek. But Tuchel could turn to Trevoh Chalobah to occupy that position against Palace to keep an eye on Wilfried Zaha. Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger would be his partners in the three-man backline, with Cesar Azpilicueta likely to miss out again.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek started in a quasi-wing-back role on the right side and made a solid impression. However, Reece James should start as the right wing-back on Sunday. Marcos Alonso ought to continue on the opposite flank, with N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic likely to form the midfield partnership. Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho will be options from the bench.

Mason Mount has been in fine form of late and will slot in as the lone attacking midfielder looking to stitch play together in the final third of the pitch. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have also been in good touch in front of the goal recently. They should continue in the side, with the returning Lukaku expected to be a substitute.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount; Havertz, Werner

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace will be without one of their best players as Conor Gallagher will be ineligible to play against his parent club. The Eagles requested Chelsea to permit the midfielder to play in the FA Cup semi-final clash but were turned down by the Blues. In some positive news, Michael Olise and Tyrick Mitchell are back in training and should be available for selection on Sunday.

Patrick Vieira will continue setting his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Jack Butland, who should come in for Vicente Guaita for the cup game. Joachim Andersen and ex-Chelsea prospect Marc Guehi ought to form the centre-back pairing, flanked by the full-back duo of Joel Ward and Mitchell.

Cheikhou Kouyate should line up as the deepest of the three central midfielders for Crystal Palace. The veteran star will have support from James McArthur as they look to keep tabs on the likes of Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic. With Gallagher unavailable, Jeffrey Schlupp should occupy the third slot in the middle of the park and provide more bite and steel against Chelsea.

Wilfried Zaha will be the main threat going forward for Crystal Palace. The Ivory Coast international should slot in on the left flank, while promising starlet Michael Olise, who has impressed in the FA Cup, should occupy the right-wing. These two will be the Eagles’ primary creative outlets, while Jean-Philippe Mateta should line up as the centre-forward.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; McArthur, Kouyate, Schlupp; Olise, Mateta, Zaha

Key Stats

  • Chelsea have won each of their last nine fixtures against Crystal Palace, with all of those coming in the Premier League.
  • Crystal Palace have progressed to the final of the FA Cup on two of the last three occasions when they have reached the penultimate stage of the competition. The most recent such occasion came in 2015/16.
  • Chelsea have lost each of their last two FA Cup London derbies, both coming against Arsenal in the 2017 and 2020 finals.
  • Michael Olise has had a direct hand in 50% of Crystal Palace’s ten FA Cup goals this season (2 goals, 3 assists).
  • Only Sergio Aguero (20) has scored more FA Cup goals than Romelu Lukaku (16) since the Belgian’s debut in the competition in January 2012. He has netted in three of Chelsea’s four matches in the tournament this season.

Player to Watch

Mason Mount

The 23-year-old is enjoying another exceptional season for Chelsea, having been directly involved in 25 goals in 45 matches across all competitions (11 goals, 14 assists). Mount has been in particularly good nick over the past week. He scored twice and set up one more in the 6-0 hammering of Southampton last week and contributed with a goal and an assist versus Real Madrid as well.

His movement and link-up with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have been working very well of late, and the England international will once again be key to Chelsea’s chances of winning on Sunday at Wembley.

Prediction

Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace caused Chelsea plenty of problems the last time these two sides met earlier this year, while they have also managed to hold Manchester City to a draw and defeat Arsenal recently. So, they will pose a serious threat to Chelsea. But after their spirited fightback against Real Madrid, the Blues should be able to carry that momentum forward, even though their Champions League journey came to an end.

Conor Gallagher’s absence will hurt Palace on the afternoon, potentially taking out some sting from their attacking play. And with the Chelsea trio of Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner looking in good touch, Thomas Tuchel’s side should be able to bag a victory on Sunday and book a place in the FA Cup final.

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