FA Cup Final preview: Manchester United v Chelsea – Wembley Stadium – May 19
With both Manchester United and Chelsea having below par seasons, the only thing the 2 clubs can look forward to is the FA Cup. The two now meet for a showdown at the Wembley Stadium on May 19, Saturday. For United, it is the 19th final appearance while for the Blues it will be the 12th.
Form-wise, the Red Devils have won 4 of their last six outings in all forms of competition, one of them being a 2-1 over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-finals in mid-April. Chelsea threatened to break into the Premier League Top 4 with 4 consecutive wins, but a draw against Huddersfield and a humiliating 0-3 loss to Newcastle put paid to any such hopes. While United finished 2nd on the EPL table, Chelsea had to be satisfied with a 5th spot and an entry into the 2018-19 Europa League.
The 36-year old Michael Carrick probably played his last game for the Red Devils against Watford on Sunday. For the FA Cup his replacement in the central mid-field role could be from among Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera. For a change, Jose Mourinho started off with Marcus Rashford after ages and the young English international rewarded the Portuguese manager with a goal. United will have to begin the game against Chelsea with the 20-year old forward if they are to make any sort of impact at the Wembley on Saturday. The other 2 players in striking positions, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata were not able to capitalize on the opportunities they got to score and the just one shot the Red Devils got on target in the entire match against Watford is testimony to their recent weakness upfront. The defense of Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Marco Rojo and Ashley Young was under pressure for better part of the match and were lucky to have not gone down by a goal or two against the Hornets on Sunday. Before the narrow win against Watford, the 2 games for the Premier League runners-up had ended in a 0-0 draw against West Ham and a shock 0-1 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, both bottom-half clubs.
Previous season’s Premier League champions Chelsea signed off the season with a 0-3 loss to an otherwise tottering Newcastle and preceded by a lackluster 1-1 draw to minions Huddersfield Town. The huge possession Chelsea hogged in those games was of no avail as they failed to finish. Olivier Giroud looked to threaten the opposition goal in some way, but folks like Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard were listless. Despite the loss to Newcastle, beleaguered manager Antonio Conte will probably adopt the 3-5-1-1 formation with Hazard and Giroud in the role of strikers.
The contest between two off-color teams could be close. But bookmakers are tipping Manchester United to walk away with the Cup for the 20th time on Saturday night at the Wembley.
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