With the financial prizes of the Champions League, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the FA Cup has lost a bit of its charm and prestige in recent seasons, but it doesn’t mean teams without a chance of winning the league don’t dream of winning it. Chelsea, still not completely certain of their top 4 finish, and quite successful at the competition in recent years, hope that their record this season against Manchester City doesn’t come into play when the teams meet for the fourth time this season.
The teams met for the first time this season in the Community Shield, a match City won 3-2, although it wasn’t really that close. In the league, the teams finished in a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and most recently, at the Etihad, on February 24, it ended in a 2-0 win for the exiting Premier League champions, with goals from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez.
Manchester City, slight favorites to come out with the ticket to play Wigan in the final, have been to the FA Cup semifinal 11 times, advancing to the final nine times, winning the competition five. Their latest triumph was in 2011, beating Stoke City 1-0. Chelsea, somewhat of FA Cup experts in recent years, have reached the semifinal 20 times in the past, advancing to the final 11 times, coming out as the winner on 7 occasions, including four times in the past seven seasons.
The injuries seem to be a bit more of a bane on the Chelsea side – Gary Cahill is out, while both Ashley Cole and Demba Ba will be in the squad but carrying injuries. For Manchester City, Maicon is the only player who is 100% out of the match, although Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards will probably remain unavailable to Roberto Mancini.
City haven’t been through the most difficult of roads to reach the final – they began with a 3-0 win over Watford, followed by 1-0 over Stoke, 4-0 over Leeds and 5-0 over Barnsley, not conceding a single goal so far in the competition, led by Carlos Tevez who has scored five goals up to this point. Chelsea have had a rougher road, which included the quarterfinal double clash with Manchester United, eventually prevailing 1-0 in the second leg. Other than that, it’s been 5-1 over Southampton, 4-0 in the replay against Brentford and 2-0 over Middlesbrough. Demba Ba, with 3 goals, is the team’s leading scorer in the competition.
Prediction – Manchester City are the better, more complete side of the two, which has been shown in the three encounters we’ve seen so far this season. The key for City will be similar to their win in the derby – using their clear advantage in the middle of the pitch to allow them an overload on one of the flanks, preferably the left, to throw Chelsea out of balance. For the Blues, it’ll be about the ability of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, if Benitez does start with the trio. A team built badly will always rely on individuals instead of a team plan. Manchester City come through.