The Emirates FA Cup captures the Blues attention this weekend, as we return to Wembley once more. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview our meeting with the Premier League leaders…
Chelsea and Manchester City, England’s last remaining Champions League representatives and most successful clubs of the past two decades, meet at Wembley for the honour of playing in the world’s favourite domestic cup final. The Londoners aim to become nine-time winners of the elegant silverware, which City have won six times.
Not for the first time since his January arrival Thomas Tuchel could make history: no German coach has ever led a team out in the FA Cup final. He and Pep Guardiola will face each other across the technical area for the first time in this semi-final.
Only Arsenal and Manchester United have played in the annual showpiece event more times than the Blues, for whom it would be the 15th appearance since 1915 if we can make it through to the final.
Chelsea have reached the last four in at least one competition in 25 of the last 31 seasons, and this is our 25th appearance in a penultimate FA Cup game going back to 1911. The Londoners have won seven of the past eight such matches, but the lone defeat was at the hands of Roberto Mancini’s Man City in 2013. Arsenal pipped City to the final in two of their previous four semi-final appearances.
Chelsea are targeting a fourth FA Cup final appearance in five seasons
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Chelsea must do on Saturday what 10 other teams have managed this season: stop Manchester City winning. Several of the teams who did so played in a similar fashion: forwards pressuring their backline, defenders keeping a high line, and the whole team squeezing the space in which the Citizens can play.
As Tuchel said after Porto, ‘It’s a part of the performance not to let your opponent perform; this is what they do and this is what we do also.’
It requires confidence that the wing-backs/wide centre-backs communicate well to snuff out Pep Guardiola’s wide forwards, and diligence in midfield against thrusting runs from the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri or Fernandinho. It helps to play at a very high tempo.
The most successful teams also snap up their chances against the Mancunians. Ten-man Leeds scored with both their shots last weekend, while neighbours United managed two from six, Spurs converted two of their four, and Leicester had seven shots, all on target, five of which found the net. City are susceptible to conceding penalties, so trickery and runs in the box is a good tactic.
The Blues have been pretty efficient in this competition so far, and no player has scored more than Tammy Abraham, who has four. The Blues’ no.9 has been directly involved in nine goals in his past seven FA Cup starts (six goals, three assists).
A few battle-scarred Blues will be licking wounds from midweek, despite the fine outcome in Seville. Christian Pulisic was the target of 11 fouls by Porto players, the most recorded by a player in a single Champions League game in the past five seasons.
Mateo Kovacic is likely to be still out, meaning Wednesday’s outstanding performer N’Golo ‘two players’ Kante may be called upon again, unless Billy Gilmour is brought into the fray, while Andreas Christensen is available again to vie with goalscoring centre-back Kurt Zouma for a starting slot.
|Round 3||Morecambe h||4-0||Birmingham h||3-0|
|Round 4||Luton h||3-1||Cheltenham a||3-1|
|Round 5||Barnsley a||1-0||Swansea a||3-1|
|Round 6||Sheffield Utd h||2-0||Everton a||2-0|
Guardiola always makes team changes and with 24 hours’ recovery less than Chelsea he is likely to mix things up again for the cup. Whoever plays it will be a strong side.
Man City have conceded more goals than the Blues in this FA Cup campaign, but netted one more too. They have also had 24 hours fewer to prepare for this showdown following Wednesday’s win in Germany.
No Premier League team scores more regularly or earlier in a game than the leaders, who have also recorded the most clean sheets (17 – though Chelsea rank second with 15). They have led for more minutes and been behind for fewer than any of their rivals.
Curiously, though, each time they have conceded first in the top flight they have failed to claw back a win, drawing two games and losing three.
Instrumental to City’s relentlessness is former Blue Kevin De Bruyne’s range of passing. He usually aims to open up the whole of the final third of the pitch against massed defences, and so many goals arise from the ball being laid back from the byline to an inrushing team-mate.
Their goal threat also arises from slickness upfront, their flank players adding width to stretch opposition ranks and create exploitable pockets. Sergio Aguero’s absence is as likely to mean a versatile non-striker such as Bernardo Silva, Ferran Torres or De Bruyne playing in the centre as Gabriel Jesus.
As 10-man Leeds demonstrated last weekend, the Citizens’ fluency can still be disrupted. Part of Marcelo Bielsa’s successful strategy was to restrict their channels by man-marking central midfielders Aleks Zinchenko and Bernardo Silva.
This allowed holding player Fernandinho or central defender John Stones to stride forward with the ball. But that left them back-pedalling and vulnerable to rapid counter-attacks when they lost possession: the scenario that produced Stuart Dallas’s winner.
That was one of just two Leeds shots on the day (compared to City’s 29), serving as a reminder that opponents simply have to be efficient when chances arise against the league leaders. The Mancunians have conceded eight top-flight goals away from home: more than a third were from set-pieces or fouls.
How to watch Chelsea-Manchester City
This match will be covered live by BBC One in the UK. To find out which broadcaster has the rights where you are elsewhere, look here.
As ever, Chelsea TV’s pre- and post-match shows can be found on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live, and the official YouTube channel.
FA Cup regulations
If scores are level at the end of normal time, extra time consisting of two periods of 15 minutes will be played, followed, if necessary, by penalty kicks.
Coaches can name nine substitutes and use five in three separate batches (in addition to half-time). The Video Assistant Referee system will review match-changing decisions. Accumulated yellow cards were cleared after the quarter-finals, so a player can only miss the final through a dismissal.
Blues on the Beeb
This match will be the 22nd of Chelsea’s 24 most recent FA Cup ties to be picked for live broadcast, and the 16th and seventh in a row on the BBC.
Chelsea’s second home
After a home that was not a home in southern Spain, we have a home-from-home in north-west London. This will be Chelsea’s 24th appearance at the new Wembley stadium when used as a neutral venue (and City’s 18th).
The last encounter there between England’s two most successful clubs over the past two decades came in the 2018/19 Carabao Cup final, two months before the Blues’ Europa League triumph against Arsenal in Baku.
A fortnight before the final the Citizens had run out 6-0 winners in the league, but the Wembley showpiece was an altogether cagier affair, finishing 0-0.
In the shoot-out that followed Kepa Arrizabalaga saved Leroy Sane’s effort but Jorginho and David Luiz both missed from the spot to hand the Mancunians the trophy.
Guardiola’s side will be back at Wembley next weekend for the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham.
CL semis here we come…
Tuesday’s 2-1 aggregate victory means Chelsea have reached the semi-finals of the reconstituted Champions League more times than any English rival. After Wednesday’s conclusion at Anfield we will face Real Madrid over two legs, the first at their training ground, the second at the Bridge.
It will be our first appearance at this stage since 2014 against Atletico Madrid. Cesar Azpilicueta is the only player from those days still in the squad, though Petr Cech is in the Blues’ backroom staff. City’s Nathan Ake was a non-playing substitute in that tie, while Kevin De Bruyne had recently been sold to Wolfsburg.
FA Cup semi-finals
Chelsea v Manchester City 5.30pm (BBC One)
Leicester v Southampton 6.30pm (BT Sport)
Premier League fixtures
Everton v Tottenham 8pm (Sky Sports)
Newcastle v West Ham 12.30pm (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Sheffield Utd 8.15pm (Sky Sports)
Arsenal v Fulham 1.30pm (Sky Sports)
Man Utd v Burnley 4pm (Sky Sports)
Leeds v Liverpool 8pm (Sky Sports)