A new competition for the Blues begins this weekend with the arrival of the Emirates FA Cup third round. We look ahead to the match…
Two of the most successful clubs of the Premier League era meet for the second time in four days, in round three of the 151st FA Cup campaign. Gallantly edged out at home in the league on Thursday, Chelsea will look to gain speedy revenge in a knockout tie at the Etihad, a 4.30pm kick-off.
Each was among the five different clubs to have lifted the venerable old trophy over the past half-decade. Pep Guardiola’s side have been eliminated at the semi-final stage three times in a row, including by Chelsea in 2020/21. The Blues, meanwhile, have reached five of the last six FA Cup finals but lost the last three in a row.
FA Cup wins
Manchester United 12
Aston Villa 7
Manchester City 6
Last season the Londoners reached both domestic cup finals, agonisingly losing both to Liverpool after a penalty shoot-out. City have already ended Chelsea’s Carabao Cup aspirations this season and the last time we fell at the first hurdle in both competitions was 1988/89.
The FA Cup is one of the Blues’ two remaining realistic routes to silverware this season. We have progressed from round three of this competition every year since January 1998, when Ruud Gullit’s then cup-holders were beaten 5-3 at the Bridge by Manchester United.
‘Do it for Luca’ could be considered an appropriate gesture towards Gianluca Vialli, who passed away this week, and the hugely popular forward adored this competition and proudly won it with the Blues as a player (1996/97) and a coach (1999/00). Chelsea players will wear black armbands on Sunday and a minute’s applause in appreciation of his life and career will precede the kick-off.
Chelsea team news
A depleted Chelsea squad performed impressively against the league champions on Thursday and will be hopeful of a greater return for their endeavours in this knockout tie three days later.
Already stripped of eight potential starters before kick-off, Graham Potter saw two of his three forwards, Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic, hobble off in the opening minutes. Although Mason Mount may recover from a training ground knock, the latest two casualties seem likely to join a potential list of Armando Broja, Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana, Reece James, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Edou Mendy as unavailable.
Fortunately, there were several positives. Stand-out midweek performer Denis Zakaria (who was successful with all three attempted dribbles) and fellow central midfielder Mateo Kovacic (providing incisive forward passes) were able to break up play and exploit the City centre, which was unusually disjointed at times.
It is not common for a loss to prompt hopefulness but had Carney Chukwuemeka’s post-shot just before half-time been a few inches to the right we might be discussing a different result. He was one of several impressive teenage subs, putting in an assured defensive display against City’s right-side threat, including six tackles – the most by a Chelsea player in any league match this season.
An all-action cameo from Lewis Hall at left-back and a solid tactical showing from a third youngster off the bench, Omari Hutchinson, added to the sense they are ready for much more if required, and possibly at the Etihad on Sunday. January signings, towering ex-Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile has already taken part in training. Livewire Conor Gallagher caused late problems for City and he may be asked to do so from the start.
One player who could be rested ahead of the Blues’ league trip to Fulham on Thursday is Thiago Silva, who along with Kalidou Koulibaly helped the Blues become only the fourth Premier League defence to shut out Erling Haaland this season, restricting him to three off-target efforts (and Chelsea have still not conceded over the first 60 minutes at home).
In fact, so effective was our midfield’s restriction of supply to the Norway striker that he did not touch the ball until midway through the first half. Overall, Chelsea made eight attempts on goal, half of which were from Potter’s substitutes, to City’s 12.
Most FA Cup finals and first reached
Scouting the opposition: Manchester City
Although Chelsea were undone by an incisive move and Riyad Mahrez’s finish decided the outcome, the honours were largely even in Thursday’s tight, tactical confrontation at Stamford Bridge. The Londoners made plenty of progress through the visitors’ midfield, partly because when City attacked Joao Cancelo pushed on as a right-winger and Rodri dropped into a centre-back role, leaving openings.
Pep Guardiola made half-time substitutions and tweaks to his 3-box-3 formation which worked until Graham Potter’s triple change at 68 minutes. In response, the Catalan turned to the engine of midfielder Kalvin Phillips over the increasingly bypassed Rodri to see the game out.
Guardiola’s warm words afterwards for Rico Lewis suggest the youngster may be among the changes in the FA Cup starting 11. He could also hand minutes to Phillips, ’keeper Stefan Ortega, midfielders Sergio Gomez and Cole Palmer, and World Cup-winning forward Julian Alvarez.
Key man Ruben Dias is still sidelined, however, and with matches to come on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup and Saturday in the league, Aymeric Laporte may not be rushed back for this game.
FA Cup 2022/23 regulations
Five substitutions, plus concussion replacements, are again allowed in the the 142nd edition of the world’s oldest football knockout. The FA ‘reserves the right to select any match’ in which the Video Assisted Referees system (VAR) should be used, which effectively means only games, such as this one, hosted at Premier League stadiums.
Replays have returned for all matches up to and including those in round four. If the teams are still tied after a replay, two periods of 15 minutes’ extra-time and, if required, a penalty shoot-out, will determine the winners.
The draw for round four will take place around 4.05pm on Sunday and be broadcast before the Man City vs Chelsea tie on Match of the Day Live on BBC One and iPlayer.
Round four matches are set to be played over the weekend of 28/29 January, round five in midweek around 1 March, quarter-finals 18/19 March, and semi-finals 22/23 April. The final is scheduled for Saturday 3 June at Wembley Stadium.
FA Cup prize money
Round 3 winners (32 teams) £105,000
Round 4 winners (16) £120,000
Round 5 winners (8) £225,000
Round 6 winners (4) £450,000
Semi-final winners (2) £1,000,000
Semi-final losers (2) £500,000
Runners-up (1) £1,000,000
Winners (1) £2,000,000
Potter at the wheel against Pep
From successive meetings with coaches still navigating the Premier League for the first time with Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest, Graham Potter now faces a second contest with one of the longest-serving, Pep Guardiola, this time in the FA Cup.
The Manchester City head coach has previously hailed the Midlander as the best English prospect in their profession.
It was a swashbuckling 2019 quarter-final in this competition in which they first crossed swords. Potter’s then Swansea side raced into a 2-0 lead but were undone by the Citizens’ three-goal, 20-minute reply. Afterwards, the impressed Catalan instigated a 45-minute discussion of tactics and philosophy with his opposite number.
‘I am a big fan of Graham Potter,’ Guardiola later commented. ‘His players have the courage to play, they all know what to do. They have runners high and wide, it does not matter if they are wing-backs, full-backs or wingers. And after that, they create spaces for people in the middle. They press aggressive, all the things I would like as a spectator. I identify with his teams.’
Potter’s Chelsea have lost to the Citizens in the Carabao Cup and now league this season, but this will be only his second head-to-head with Guardiola in the FA Cup, and the Londoners have a remarkable recent record in that competition.
By club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton