Saturday’s FA Cup Final will see Chelsea take on Manchester United, but for some reason, this one has generated less excitement than in recent years.
Perhaps it’s just a bit of football fatigue. For Chelsea supporters, this season has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. With all the twists and turns, ups and downs, you could be forgiven for being a bit worn out after a long tumultuous season.
But Chelsea could give the supporters something to be a bit cheery about over the summer if the Blues could win the FA Cup after making consecutive appearances in the final.
But for Chelsea to succeed on Saturday, they’re going to have to make a much better showing than what has been seen over the last two matches. In matches against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, Chelsea sort of appeared to be going through the motions, which was odd considering that they could have finished in the top four.
As it was, the Blues will be out of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons, and serious questions are being asked of Antonio Conte’s ability to remain as Chelsea manager, particularly due to odd team selections in the last two matches and some interesting comments from some of his players recently.
Conte has one chance to get it right on Saturday, and while it may not completely absolve him in the eyes of the supporters, it will make up for last season’s loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup final and give Chelsea a piece of silverware to show off at the end of the season.
But if Chelsea’s form has looked bad over the last few matches, Manchester United haven’t been that much better.
United have notched just one goal in their last three matches, winning just one of those matches, and Jose Mourinho has been digging out some of his players in the media as of late. He’s criticised some of his players for their perceived lack of effort and criticising his strikers’ inability to put the ball in the net.
He might have a solution waiting for him on Saturday. Romelu Lukaku has been missing lately due to injury, but he’s getting closer to being fit and is likely to play some part in the match, even if it’s just an appearance from the bench.
But in reality, this match will be decided by the players on the pitch, most likely those in the midfield area.
In Chelsea’s 1-0 win over United in the fall at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho opted to match back three for back three, leading to a really cagey midfield battle and a deciding goal headed in by Alvaro Morata.
Mourinho changed tactics for their second meeting, this time at Old Trafford. Mourinho abandoned the back three and switched to a more orthodox-looking 4-3-3. Despite Chelsea taking the early lead, United struck back with two goals to win, but the margin of victory could have been much more, as United’s three-man midfield dominated Chelsea’s two-man midfield. United just didn’t take their chances.
On Saturday, it’ll be interesting to see how the match unfolds, though it’s likely that the onus is on Mourinho to find solutions. Chelsea are likely to line up in a 3-5-2 in order to give Chelsea an extra body in midfield. That likely means that Olivier Giroud will lead the line and look to continue his scoring record at Wembley.
With Chelsea’s plan likely to be to play counter-attacking football, will Mourinho opt to play a cagey match and keep it tight, or might he sense weakness in this Chelsea team and perhaps look to play with a bit more attacking threat?
United’s approach will likely decide the match, since it’s pretty clear how Conte will set up his side. But if Chelsea don’t show more intensity than they have over the last two matches, it might not decide which approach Mourinho or Conte chooses. It might just be left to one side’s players to steamroll their opposition.