Saturday, May 19 – 5:15p.m Local time – Wembley Stadium, London, United Kingdom
The English football season is set to officially come to a close this weekend with the FA Cup final.
The Wembley showdown comes a week after the curtains fell on the Premier League, with plans for the summer extravaganza in Russia certainly aloft seeing as Gareth Southgate has already named his 23-man England squad for the FIFA World Cup.
Five of the players named in the Three Lions squad will be in action this weekend as Manchester United take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final; Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford for United, while Gary Cahill will be the man for the Blues.
Although Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also booked a ticket to Russia, the Chelsea midfielder will be ineligible this weekend having spent his 2017/18 campaign on loan to Crystal Palace.
The encounter between Chelsea and Manchester United without a doubt has all the elements and rudiments of being an epic cup final, so much for the historic rivalry as it is for the trophy at stake.
Jose Mourinho’s charges prepared for the match with a routine victory over Watford on the final day of the season, as Rashford scored the winner with their best chance of the game in the first half.
United have, for all intents and purposes, had a successful season having finished with 81 points – second only to champions Manchester City. Although there is the underlying argument that the Red devils could have shown more competitive zest to their cross-city rivals, given their 19-point difference, the surety of Champions League football and the prospect of mounting a stronger title challenge has fans at Old Trafford reeling for the next EPL calendar.
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The same however cannot be said about Chelsea who have been nothing short of disastrous this season. Despite being the defending champions, the Blues crumbled over the course of the campaign that saw them finish a measly fifth on the log with 70 points; five points behind Liverpool in fourth.
With little chance of making it to the Champions League playoff by registering a fourth place finish, Chelsea prepared for their FA Cup final in the worst possible way by being romped 3-0 away to Newcastle United on the final day of the season.
Antonio Conte will be wary of the fact that two of the goals came in a span of just four minutes in the second half. Dwight Gayle opened the Magpies’ account for the day in the 23rd minute, but it was the second half brace by Ayoze Perez that put the entire game to rest.
As such, the air of desperation will be thick for the hosts, in stark contrast to Manchester United who look the well rounded side in spite of having key injury concerns.
Romelu Lukaku has been sidelined over the last three games after sustaining an ankle injury during the 2-1 win over Arsenal at the tail end of April, and faces the race against time to be ready against his former club.
Anthony Martial is likewise doubtful after suffering a knee injury in training ahead of the Watford game, while Marouane Fellaini’s participation is yet to be seen having missed the last two matches with injury.
David Luiz continues with his prolonged spell on the sidelines for Chelsea with a knee injury while former Man United prodigy Danny Drinkwater is out with a calf strain.
FA Cup match prediction
Antonio Conte may have enjoyed his debut season that saw him crowned with a Premier League title, but the former Juventus manager seems to have long lost the dressing room. His defense has been lax, instructions often studiously ignored and his star players, albeit present, have seemingly already wandered off to the World Cup, if not another club.
Manchester United on the other hand have been tight knit, certainly not short of confidence, and will be looking to cap off a bright season with a piece of silverware that will set precedent for an mouthwatering Manchester derby in the FA Community Shield at the start of next season.
Prediction: Man United to win – +175 on William Hill
Man United vs. Chelsea recent results
Man United 2-1 Chelsea (February 25, 2018)
Romelu Lukaku 39′
Jesse Lingard 75′
Chelsea 1-0 Man United (November 5, 2017)
Alvaro Morata 55′
Man United 2-0 Chelsea (April 16, 2017)
Marcus Rashford 7′
Ander Herrera 49′
Chelsea 4-0 Man United (October 23, 2016)
Gary Cahill 21′
Eden Hazard 62′
N’Golo Kante 70′
Chelsea 1-1 Man United (February 7, 2016)
Diego Costa 90’+1
Jesse Lingard 61′