The oldest and most glamorous cup competition, the English FA cup returns this weekend with two marquee games parading arguably the best four teams in the country at the Wembley stadium. The competition which has been approached more seriously than in seasons past is in its semi-final stage, hence it is no coincidence that the matches will be parading three teams that are presently in the top four places in the league providing us with an action packed weekend.
League leaders Chelsea take on one of the very few teams that have succeeded in defeating them this season, city rivals Tottenham Hotspurs, while in the other game it is the team that has won the cup the most times and have found some form of glory in this competition in recent years Arsenal up against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, here is a preview of what to expect from both games.
CHELSEA VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS: So much have been said about how Mauricio Pochettino has built this young Spurs side over the past two seasons, turning them from pretenders into not just top 4 chasers but also title contenders, the manager has rightfully earned his hype and has even been name dropped as one of the likely successors to Luis Enrique at Barcelona, one area he however needs to fix is his lack of titles, whilst the Champions League and the Premier League may be stars too far for him to shoot at, the FA cup presents a perfect ground to add some silverware to his name and with two games standing in his way, there is no better time for Spurs than now. He is however up against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, the team he defeated the last time both teams met and following Chelsea’s defeat at Manchester United last time in the league, Antonio Conte is out not just for revenge but for redemption, another defeat even if it is in a different competition is the last thing that the blues need at this stage of the season. The last time around, Spurs played with a system that negated that of Chelsea and successfully capitalized on their aerial weakness as Dele Alli helped his side to victory, with Diego Costa seeking an end to his goal drought and Harry Kane back to scoring after his injury, this will be a tight encounter and promises to be feisty and exciting. One should particularly be interested in seeing how Conte reacts tactics wise but the midfield battle of Kante and Matic up against Dembele and Wanyama is probably the department that will decide this game. Very close to call seeing Spurs have won their last seven games in all competitions yet struggled to adjust to life at the Wembley ground which was their home during the Champions league games whilst outside the blip at United, Chelsea have been an unstoppable force and with Eden Hazard, they have a massive chink in their armor, this is one game that may stretch beyond the regular 90 minutes but I will give this to TOTTENHAM.
ARSENAL VS MANCHESTER CITY
If there is any team that needs a big win, then both sides fit in that category, but maybe Arsenal needs it just a little more, Arsene Wenger has endured his most torrid season yet managing Arsenal and it looks like they may miss out on a Top four/ Champions league place for the first time in decades and fans calling for the manager’s resignation louder than ever before, it is believed in certain quarters that Arsene Wenger may have already agreed to extend his stay at the gunners but the board desires a winning opportunity for this to be formally announced and in a competition he has won twice in the last four years, this could well be the saving grace for him to remind the Arsenal fans that he is still the man they can trust for at least the next two seasons. For Pep Guardiola, things have not exactly gone according to script at the Etihad, getting knocked out in the second round of the Uefa Champions league was not in the plans when he was given the job and fighting for a top four place instead of the league title was the least his intimidating CV suggested, but in his first season, he would be seeking to end it with at least a trophy like he did at the previous clubs he coached and Sunday afternoon provides him with a chance at the only silverware left. The last time both sides met, it ended in a draw though Pep had won their very first encounter but things have changed a lot since then, Manchester City seemed to have found a bit more stability especially with the return of captain Vincent Kompany at the back and Sergio Aguero re-discovering his scoring form whilst for Arsenal, there was a shape change at the back in their last game against Middlesbrough with the manager adopting the 3 at the back system following defensive injuries and this may be the same system to be adopted against City. Will Pep be able to hit a heavy blow to the gunners or can Arsene Wenger sprout his magic yet again, this should be less cagey and surely see plenty goals, really set up for an intriguing game and Manchester City are my favorites to progress to the final.