FA CUP

AUTHOR: William Kedjanyi

STAR FOOTBALL PREVIEW Sat: Manchester City v Chelsea

The FA Cup lost a lot of magic this week with the dreadful decision to scrap replays from next season but there should be plenty of drama when Manchester City and Chelsea meet in the weekend’s first semi-final, writes WILLIAM KEDJANYI.

Manchester City’s hopes of a repeat treble were denied by Real Madrid on Wednesday – but with the chance for a League and Cup double there for the taking they’ll be on the hunt for revenge. The FA Cup is Chelsea’s only chance of a trophy this season – which might well be a job saver for under fire boss Mauricio Pochettino. All to play for, then.

City’s exit will sting Pep Guardiola given how well they played against Madrid. City won the shot count 33-8, the shots on target count 9-3, the corner count 18-1 and the xG count 2.74-1.44, which is more impressive when one considers Rodrygo scored a tap-in early.

Their challenge will be to recover from such a big midweek effort in time for today’s encounter, against a Chelsea side that’s had an ideal preparation.

The Blues – led by the outstanding Cole Palmer, who is ? to add yet another goal to his tally – mauled Everton 6-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday in one of their most impressive displays of the season. That and a full week to target this game will help their chances although the form should be treated with caution – Everton crumbled early and lie 16th in the table, and Chelsea drew with bottom side Sheffield United the week beforehand.

Chelsea have avoided defeat for quite a long time – they’re now unbeaten in 12 games across all competitions in 90 minutes if you include the Carabao Cup final extra-time defeat to Liverpool, including a 1-1 draw at the Etihad in the league.

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Manchester City v Chelsea
FA Cup Semi-Final

Wembley, London
Kick-Off: 17:15
Live on BBC One HD / BBC iPlayer

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
FEB 2024 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea
NOV 2023 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 4-4 Man City
MAY 2023 PREMIER LEAGUE Man City 1-0 Chelsea
JAN 2023 FA CUP Man City 4-0 Chelsea
JAN 2023 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 0-1 Man City
NOV 2022 EFL CUP Man City 2-0 Chelsea
JAN 2022 PREMIER LEAGUE Man City 1-0 Chelsea
NOV 2021 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 0-1 Man City
MAY 2021 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Man City 0-1 Chelsea
MAY 2021 PREMIER LEAGUE Man City 1-2 Chelsea

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They’re also scoring regularly – they’ve smashed in 28 goals since the Carabao Cup final – whilst Noni Madueke, and Trevoh Chalobah have also shown a lot of long-term potential for next season for Blues fans to look forward to over the last three weeks. Moises Caicedo is also beginning to find his best form.

However, Monday was their first clean sheet in seven games and – perhaps understandably for a young side that’s seen a few changes – there’s been plenty of weakness on show also.

The Blues have struggled to keep control of any games this season and made it to Wembley through the skin of their teeth. It took a fifth-round 90th-minute goal from Conor Gallagher to beat Leeds – and a quarter-final brace in added time, courtesy of Madueke and Carney Chukwuemeka, to eliminate Leicester, both of those ties coming at Stamford Bridge.

Defensively they are vulnerable, there are often wide gaps in midfield despite the improvement of Moises Caicedo and the energy of Conor Gallagher, and they’ve lost leads against Brentford, Burnley, and Sheffield United since March, none of which bodes well for a rear-guard action against Manchester City.

City will need to bounce back from their midweek disappointment, but Pep Guardiola has a full contingent to choose from and City have hit their goalscoring stride in recent weeks. After a cagey 0-0 against Arsenal they’ve put 4 past Palace, scored 3 at Madrid, and smashed five past Luton before creating the chances to score more than one in the midweek second leg, and they should fancy their chances of getting past Chelsea at least once. Erling Haaland is just ? to score but Phil Foden (boosted to ? to score first) and Kevin de Bryune – who scored the equaliser against Madrid and went very close to scoring twice afterwards – will thrive if Chelsea’s recent games are anything to go by.

FA Cup semi-finals can often be tight clashes with so much at stake but this Chelsea side hasn’t been particularly conservative this season and whilst their cup final with Liverpool was a 0-0, Chelsea created 2.28 xG that day and had 19 shots whilst Liverpool had 24 shots, 11 of them on target, in what was anything but a dull game.

Manchester City to win and both teams to score makes appeal at 9/5. City have conceded in all but two matches since the beginning of March and Chelsea’s matches have been full of goals since their League Cup final, whilst they’ve struggled to keep leads as well in the interim, and it’s not impossible this game opens up if either side takes a lead. With that in mind, Cole Palmer simply has to be backed to keep his golden scoring run going – if the game opens up nobody will benefit more than him.


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