The FA Cup final takes place this evening, with Chelsea and Man Utd facing off at Wembley Stadium at 5:15pm. It goes without saying that this is an absolutely huge game, and it’s one that I’m really looking forward to. It’s a great chance for either team to end their season on a high and lift some silverware. Winning it wouldn’t quite save Chelsea’s season, or Antonio Conte’s job, but it would give them some happiness at the end of a poor campaign. I think this can be seen as a good season for Man Utd if they manage to win today, as finishing second in the league and winning the FA Cup is something they can be happy with.
Chelsea haven’t won the FA Cup since 2012, when they beat Liverpool 2-1 thanks to goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba. They lost last season’s final against Arsenal. They’re looking to win their eighth cup today.
Antonio Conte has a big job on his hands if he’s going to get Chelsea to play to the best of their ability today. They have been quite poor this season, and weren’t even close to defending their Premier League title as Man City ran away with things. A fifth place finish is a huge disappointment for the Blues, as they won’t have Champions League football next season. But they can’t dwell on the negatives of the season, and must be up for today’s game as they try to bring some joy to themselves and their fans.
Chelsea were immense last season, and Conte will hope his players can put a performance in similar to what they were doing all last season. He experimented with a 3-5-2 at times this season, with Eden Hazard linking up with one of Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud, with three central midfielders behind them, but I think he’ll go back to his 3-4-3(ish) formation today. I think we’ll see something like: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger/Cahill; Moses, Fabregas/Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Morata/Giroud. That formation gives them so much more going forward, and makes them so much more exciting to watch, in my opinion.
I saw them with the three across midfield at times this season and thought they were quite negative. They didn’t impress me much with that formation, so I hope he sacrifices one of the central midfielders and goes with an extra attacking player today. But Conte will then be thinking there’s a chance of his midfield being overrun by Man Utd’s three central midfielders, which is also a possibility. This is one of the negatives of playing with three central defenders, but that’s Conte’s formation and it’s one that he trusts.
Chelsea will have to be at their absolute best today, and if they put in a performance near their best they have a great chance of winning this game. They weren’t at their best in last year’s final, when they were beaten 2-1 by Arsenal, but they’ll be doing everything they can to avoid more heartbreak today. Last year’s loss could be a good experience for them, and they’ll put absolutely everything into today’s game.
Antonio Conte told Chelsea’s official website: “For sure I like to win. I like to win trophies and to be a winner. But at the same time when you work very hard and try to give 120 per cent every day, you must be satisfied. Miracles don’t always happen, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.
“I think it’s right to separate the two things because otherwise if you don’t win it means you didn’t work very well. That means in France, Italy and Germany there is only one team or one manager that are working well.
“We must divide these situations and then there are people to judge your work. It doesn’t depend on if you lift a trophy or win the league.”
Chelsea will be without Emerson today, but Conte refused to give any more team news as he didn’t want to give his plans away.
As much as this is a huge game for Chelsea, it’s just as big for Man Utd. They are aiming to win their 13th FA Cup, which would bring them level with record-holders Arsenal. They last won the cup in 2016, when they beat Crystal Palace 2-1 thanks to Jesse Lingard, who scored a cracking volley in extra-time. That was Louis van Gaal’s last game in charge of the club, and Jose Mourinho took over.
They may be a little bit disappointed with how their season has gone, but they can take plenty of positives from it if they win today. An FA Cup win and a second-placed finish would be positive. They would have liked to challenge for the title, but that would have been impossible due to how good Man City were. They’ll be disappointed that they went out of the Champions League to Sevilla, but that’s in the past now and they have to leave it there.
I’m a little bit worried about how they might set up today, as we have seen Mourinho send his side out to play defensively on many occasions. I hope he sends them out to go for it, as we could see a cracking game of football if he does. We have seen United play some really good football when they have gone for games, like against Man City when they came back from 2-0 down and won 3-2, and I really hope we see something like that today. With the quality of their attacking players, they’re more than capable of really putting a show on.
As I mentioned above, today’s game could be won or lost in midfield. If Mourinho goes for three across the middle, they could get the better of Chelsea’s two, if that’s what Conte goes for. I think we’ll see something like: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly/Jones/Lindelof, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Alexis, Lukaku/Rashford. That would give United a solid base in midfield, and plenty of protection for their back four with both Herrera and Matic in there. It would also give Pogba license to roam forward, and we could see him at his devastating best if he is allowed join the attacks.
It will be very interesting to see how they set up, but as I have already said, I really hope they just go for it.
Jose Mourinho told MUTV: “We are together, 24 hours per day, and, as we are not going to be for around two months, we are going to miss each other so it’s a good way to say goodbye to the season – to be together playing a game. Now, some, but not many, enjoy a well-deserved holiday and others have the motivation, the honour and the pleasure to go to a World Cup and represent their countries.”
He added: “In Italy, it’s not a big deal. In Portugal, it’s a beautiful day but also in Spain maybe because in the final I played against Barcelona – it was Real-Barcelona. If it was not Real-Barcelona, it was Real against another team and it wasn’t so significant. But the English FA Cup is the one that it doesn’t matter, the team or the dimension, the FA Cup is historically the best cup of all domestic cups.”
Anthony Martial is fit, but Romelu Lukaku is a doubt with an ankle injury. Mourinho said he will give Lukaku right up until the last minute to prove his fitness, so we’ll see if he makes it. Mourinho also confirmed that David De Gea will start in goal, as Sergio Romero missed a couple of months with injury.
I’ve been thinking about how this game will go for the last few days, but I really have no idea. Anybody could win it, and that only adds to the excitement. I just hope we see a good spectacle and neither manager decides to send his team out to defend. Everybody wants to see a great game in the FA Cup final, so let’s hope they both go for it and we see an end-to-end game.
It’s a massive game, and I really can’t wait for it.
The team news will be out at 4:15pm, and you’ll get that up here as well. I’ll be watching the game, and you can follow all of the action with me on Twitter. Enjoy the game.