It’s the FA Cup semi-final involving two of England’s traditional heavyweights, Chelsea and Manchester United, squaring-off at the famous Wembley Stadium. Going into this fixture one would think the Red Devils have the upper hand as they have already beaten the Blues on three occasions this season, twice in the league and once in the League Cup. This included the controversial 2-0 win for United at the Bridge where United were considered by many as being VAR too lucky. In addition to their strong recent head-to-head form, the team in red have been in incredible form since the restart. Conversely, Chelsea have been very much like elevator, they’ve had their ups and downs. In particular, their inconsistency of late, very similar to pre-lockdown, would suggest it would be very difficult for the London club to come out on top. However, it is often the case where the Blues perform at their best when assuming the position of the underdog e.g. Manchester City (who surprisingly lost 2-0 to Arsenal in the other FA Cup semi-final).
To add some extra spice to an already hot clash, the battle seemed to have already started as both managers have been quite vocal during their pre-match press conferences. Frank Lampard mentioned how VAR has been in the spotlight in the last few matches with United seemingly continuing to be on the right side of the ledger. This drew a defensive response from Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who mentioned how they were rescued by from the on-field referees’ errors.
Going into this game fans will be cognisant of the advantage United have as aforementioned i.e. their head-to-head and League form, and fortunate VAR experiences. Now as much as the FA Cup is important and has a special place in Chelsea’s and United’s fans hearts, given the competition’s magnitude and history, finishing in the top 4 to secure a Champions League spot is arguably considered the priority given the financial and reputational incentives. With this, and while the match will no doubt be an amazing spectacle, it will be equally fascinating to see how the two managers approach this game in terms of line-ups and in-game management.
Bearing this in mind, some of our writers at SW6Daily have provided their opinions on this fixture and even laid out their score predictions. Without any delay, let’s jump in and read what they have to say.
Pavan Pillai (@puvinpillow)
I want to be optimistic about this game given our good record in the FA Cup in recent years but I feel far from it. Chelsea is not a club that takes cup competitions lightly and Frank knows this better than most. The side that played against Norwich looked knackered, hence there should be a significant rotation in the line-up. Kante’s unavailability is a real shame when you’re up against Pogba and the in-form Fernandes. Our top performers such as Pulisic and Willian will probably be rested as they’ve amassed a lot of minutes since the restart and will could use a rest for the remaining Premier League fixtures. It is a similar situation with United who have barely rotated since the restart. Losing to the Red Devils three times already has been intolerable, another one and I might have to get off the grid! I am not particularly looking forward to this game. I am expecting United to batter us again.
Score prediction: Manchester United 4 – 0 Chelsea
The fixture has come in at a tricky time for Frank Lampard as he will be in a dilemma whether to start the game with his strongest XI (which in turn might seem them tired for their last two crucial Premier League fixtures), or field a second-string team and risk losing to United for the fourth time this season. Either way, it won’t be an easy task for Chelsea given the form that United are in since the restart. Their front three are lethal when it comes to scoring goals, and Bruno Fernandes seems to have a brought a new lease of life to this side.
Our defence is a big concern and it will be really difficult to contain the attacking prowess of United who have a lot of quality. They seem to be the more balanced side of the two and as much of an impressive attacking threat they possess, their defence is equally good. We have lost three times to the Red Devils already this season so the pressure will be on us to deliver, and despite us having the knack of turning up in matches where the odds are against us, I feel this one will be a bit too much for us.
Score prediction: Manchester United 2 – 1 Chelsea
Luka Foley (@UOGLuka)
Chelsea come into this game desperate to turn their fortunes around against Manchester United in the hope that they can end United’s 100% record against them this season. With this, what better place to do it than in an FA Cup semi-final?!
Whether it’s right or not to host the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley as opposed to saving the venue for the final itself is another story, but perhaps the Wembley scene will give the Blues that extra fighting spirit they need to end their Man United hoodoo.
The big story coming out of the Chelsea camp is that N’Golo Kante will not feature this evening as many hoped he would, a long-standing injury keeping him out.
United, despite their performances taking a slight dip against Southampton, and what was a close game in truth against Crystal Palace, will be coming into this game as favourites against Chelsea who have certainly not looked their best in recent games. The potent attacking threat that United pose in Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes will no doubt need to be kept very quiet by Chelsea if the Blues are to have any hope of getting what will most likely be the most morale-boosting victory of the season so far. In addition, every player must be on their A++ game from the first whistle (if that’s even possible).
As worried as I am about United in attack, the Blues can certainly defy the odds if they keep it simple and show the same fight that they’ve shown against a lot of top teams this season.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 1 – 2 Chelsea (in normal time)
Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi (@RJ_Goodthings)
FA Cup semi-final, Wembley, right up Chelsea’s avenue! While Manchester United have been in better form since the restart, and also have the upper hand in recent head-to-head battles, the FA Cup is a different competition and there is something different and magical about this trophy that seems to be a favourite of Chelsea’s in recent years – including a 1-0 win against the Red Devils in 2018 to seal our 8th FA Cup thanks to an Eden Hazard penalty.
United have been particularly impressive in terms of not only results, but the manner in which those results have come by. The highly-potent and fast-paced attacking trio of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood, along with the hugely-influential Penandes, I mean Fernandes, have been in scintillating form. Complementing this has been their safe and sound defence (something to envy for the Blues) which has given them a nice balance and tagline of ‘form team of the Premier League’ (this is despite the small bump in the road against Southampton whereby they conceded a dramatic equaliser in ‘Fergie time’).
Pivoting back to the FA Cup clash. While the race for top 4 in the Premier League is heating up which directly concerns both Chelsea and United, I do not buy the notion that this clash is somehow diminished in terms of its importance. Both clubs, in particular the rookie managers and ex-players of both clubs, will want to claim this prestigious trophy to build their confidence for next season and keep the critics at bay. Further, a win here leads to a final showdown against the Gunners who surprisingly beat tournament favourites Manchester City. With this, both clubs will fancy their chances of adding to their stacked trophy cabinets.
The key to this result will be a combination of who gains the ascendency early and who sets the tone, and, which team capitalises on their chances. Objectively speaking, United are in a better situation at present as noted above, and given the absence of the world-class Kante, the odds appear to favour the club in red. But, given the Blues have performed to their potential during the big occasions this season e.g. against Spurs, City, and Leicester in the FA Cup quarter-final, I am expecting to see the Chelsea spirit of old to be on show and seal another memorable Wembley victory.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 2 – 3 Chelsea
Edited By: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi & Jai Mcintosh