The Blues put our Premier League campaign to one side this weekend for very important reasons, as we do battle with one of our rivals for a top-four place but this time for domestic knockout honours. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set the scene for Saturday’s showpiece Emirates FA Cup final…
Welcome to episode 140 of English football’s longest-running thriller, the FA Cup final. This year’s Wembley finale arrives before the closing titles of the Premier League season, and is part one of two crucial games, back-to-back, between Chelsea and Leicester. We meet again in the line of duty on Tuesday at the Bridge when the shoot-out is for a top-four finish.
For the first time in the club’s 116-year history, the Blues have reached the final of a major competition in five successive seasons. It was only nine months ago the Londoners were last part of this ticker-tape occasion, and Saturday brings our 15th appearance since 1914/15. Chelsea have lifted the trophy eight times, on each occasion in the hands of a different coach. Thomas Tuchel is looking to make that nine.
In contrast, the Foxes have endured a 52-year wait (and 30 different teams have reached the final since then). They have competed in four previous FA Cup finals – the most without ever winning the trophy.
The Blues have never lost to Leicester in this competition, stretching back to a round three victory in 1919/20. After four of the past five meetings the Londoners have even gone on to lift the trophy: 1996/97, 1999/00, 2011/12 and 2017/18.
Leicester’s 2–0 victory over Chelsea in January proved to be Frank Lampard’s last in the league as coach. By then, though, the Chelsea legend had already stewarded his side through to round five of this competition.
Lampard was stand-in skipper when the Blues won the Champions League after the FA Cup, but it is important not to get carried away with all the ‘echoes of 2012’. Nothing is in the bag yet, and Wednesday’s surprise setback was a reminder it takes 100 per cent intensity and commitment to maintain this club’s reputation as serial winners.
Chelsea are the most successful FA Cup side since the turn of the century, reaching 10 finals (including this season) and winning six of them.
— Key stat
Chelsea team news
The echoes of 2011/12 may feel irresistible but there is so much work still to be done to achieve anything this season. The first marker that can be put down comes this weekend with the possibility of a ninth FA Cup triumph.
While Thomas Tuchel monitors the availability of Andreas Christensen and Mateo Kovacic, he has the luxury of a near-full squad from which to select his starting 11, and five substitutes available on the day.
The Bavarian has already indicated Kepa Arrizabalaga will be between the posts on Saturday. The Spain goalkeeper is no stranger to these occasions: he kept goal for the Londoners in the Europa League and Carabao Cup finals in 2018/19, conceding once.
Even if his reliable Danish centre-back is unavailable, Tuchel may freshen up his back three from Wednesday with Toni Rudiger likely to step in. N’Golo Kante, absent from the January defeat at the King Power Stadium, should return after sitting out midweek.
Similarly, Timo Werner seems certain to be recalled to the Blues’ attack, while Hakim Ziyech was given the nod in the semi-final win over Manchester City, scoring the vital winner from the German’s lay-back.
A similar game-plan to that Wembley game might be in order with Tuchel insisting his team play with intensity, pressing to win possession high upfield and advancing the ball rapidly. Newcastle last Friday exposed Leicester’s susceptibility to a shrewdly placed ball behind for players with pace, as Chelsea did to Man City the following day.
The Blues are far more familiar with Saturday's arena, this being our 25th game at the new Wembley Stadium when classed as a neutral venue, but both sets of forwards will hope the surface plays faster than it did for the semi-finals.
Last season’s Chelsea goalscorer in the FA Cup final, Christian Pulisic, will aim to emulate the last man to score in successive finals – Didier Drogba, who found the net against Everton and Portsmouth in 2008/09 and 2009/10.
|Round 3||Morecambe h||4-0||Stoke a||4-0|
|Round 4||Luton h||3-1||Brentford a||3-1|
|Round 5||Barnsley a||1-0||Brighton h||1-0|
|Round 6||Sheffield Utd h||2-0||Man Utd h||3-1|
Foxes in the final
Brendan Rodgers will be anxious about Jonny Evans’ availability for Leicester’s first cup final since 2000. The man he calls ‘the brain in our defence’ marshals his centre-back juniors, especially the assured but inexperienced Wesley Fofana.
On Tuesday against a weakened Manchester Utd, the former Blues reserve coach used a 4-4-2 formation in Evans’ absence. His regular set-up is 3-4-1-2, with wing-backs pushing up very high and centre-backs such as Fofana and Caglar Soyuncu given licence to probe forward and join the attack.
In central midfield, Wilfred Ndidi patrols and wins the ball while Youri Tielemans is more of a rover and a handy safe-cracker against deep defending. The Belgian can be bypassed, though, and exploitable space can be found between the Foxes’ midfield and defence.
The East Midlanders love to counter-attack, with the scheming James Maddison playing behind bustling strikers Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho. Since his debut in this competition in January 2016, no one has netted more cup goals than Iheanacho, who has managed 14 in 19 games.
Whether by accident or design City attacked far more down the right flank on Tuesday through the Nigerian and hard-working winger Marc Albrighton, who generally knows when to cross and when to slip a short pass in.
It remains to be seen how Leicester will cope with their first big final appearance since 2000. Chelsea will hope they are focused more on the occasion than the game.
How to watch the FA Cup final
The FA Cup final will be covered live on BBC One and BT Sport in the UK. This match will be the 23rd of Chelsea’s 25 most recent FA Cup ties to be picked for live broadcast, and the eighth in a row on the BBC.
BBC One coverage starts at midday with a preview in ‘Football Focus’, then resumes with classic moments from the finalists in ‘FA Cup Rewind’ from 1.45, leading into ‘Match of the Day Live’ at 2.45pm. BT Sport 1 begins its lead-up to the match from 3pm.
Chelsea TV starts at 4pm with 1997 FA Cup-winner Frank Sinclair and Ben Andrews live from the Wembley pitch, on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel
Supporters attending the game must arrive at least an hour before kick-off to allow for Covid protocols before entry. Inside the stadium, the traditional community singing will include ‘Abide With Me’, sung by the B Positive Choir and dedicated to the memory of all those who have lost their lives during the pandemic.
Before kick-off the trophy will be brought out by Chelsea and Leicester staff members nominated for their exceptional work in support of the FA Cup and local communities. The Blues’ representative is Mark Blythe, who has been at the forefront of the Chelsea Foundation’s widely praised response in aid of NHS workers and the local community.
As the Royal British Legion is commemorating the 100th anniversary of its founding, the coin toss will use a full colour Poppy Coin.
For those unable to attend on the day the cup final programme is available to buy online here
The Stamford Bridge Megastore is now stocking FA Cup final t-shirts (adults and kids), scarves and official programmes.
Cup final regulations
The coin toss to determine which of the two blue teams will wear a change strip was won by Chelsea, whose 1960s-influenced ‘dazzle’ kit for 2021/22 will have its first airing. Leicester will wear all maroon.
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.
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. Chelsea have won three of our past six shoot-outs in all competitions, Leicester two of their last three.
We have FA Cup history
Chelsea and Leicester have been drawn together in this competition seven times before, with the rounds progressing from three to six over the years, culminating in this final. The Londoners have been taken to a replay twice, but always beaten the Foxes.
There have been memorable meetings en route to the Blues lifting the FA Cup, such as the late penalty won by Erland Johnsen in 1997, George Weah’s thunderous finish in 2000, the 5-2 thrashing at the Bridge in 2012, and Pedro’s extra-time winner in 2018. Last season’s 1-0 was thanks to half-time super sub Ross Barkley.
The two teams also met in round three in January 1946 when the FA Cup resumed after six years in storage. For the only time in the competition’s history clubs played two-legged ties up to round six, generating much-needed post-war revenue.
A 1-1 at the Bridge, in which the hosts squandered a hatful after the great Tommy Lawton’s opener, was followed by the decider at Filbert Street which the visitors won 2-0 (3-1 on aggregate) through inside-forwards Reg Williams and Len Goulden. FA rules required both sets of Blues to wear their change strips at the time, so the Londoners sported red while the Foxes took on the white coat of their arctic cousins. (Well, it was winter.)
Unsere stadt, unser pokal?
Chelsea’s German contingent will hope to earn their place alongside 1956 goalkeeper Bert Trautmann in Wembley folklore, but for more desirable reasons. Famously, Man City won the FA Cup final despite their Bremen-born custodian suffering a fractured neck bone.
This weekend Thomas Tuchel will become the first of his nationality to lead a team out at England’s national stadium in the final of this competition. If Kai Havertz, Toni Rudiger and Timo Werner all start they will match the highest number of their countrymen to start the English showpiece, set by Arsenal in 2014.
Werner already has some experience of the occasion. As a recent but ineligible recruit, he watched last season’s final against the Gunners from the stands.
African Blues in the FA Cup final
Wembley semi-final hero Hakim Ziyech is on course to be the first player to fly the red and green flag of Morocco at this most prestigious of English football occasions.
The Blues’ first FA Cup medal-winner from the continent was Liberia striker George Weah in 1999/00, and the legendary Didier Drogba dominated this showpiece for years.
He scored the first ever goal at the new Wembley to beat Manchester Utd in the 2006/07 FA Cup final, and became the first player to score in four such matches in 2011/12 as Liverpool were beaten 2-1.
Women go for European glory
Sunday is another red-letter day for the club, with Chelsea Women hoping to overcome fellow domestic title-winners Barcelona in the Women’s Champions League final in Gothenburg.
The game will be streamed live on this website and the 5th stand app. Geo-restrictions apply and it cannot be viewed in the UK (where the game will be live on BT Sport), Iceland, Denmark, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Anguilla.
For UK viewers, BT Sport are making the match free to view on the usual broadcast platforms, their official app, and YouTube from 7.15pm.