Sunday 20 May, 2:15am, Wembley Stadium
As one of the two biggest events in London on Saturday, Chelsea and Manchester United will go head to head in the FA Cup Final for the first time since 2007.
Chelsea’s campaign got off to a rough start, needing penalties in a third round replay to get past Norwich before 3-0 and 4-0 wins over Newcastle and Hull respectively got them into the last eight.
Jamie Vardy sent their quarter final against Leicester to extra time before a Pedro winner sent them to Wembley for a semi-final date with Southampton.
Midseason signing Olivier Giroud (fresh off winning three of the last four FA Cups with Arsenal) scored an exceptional goal and Alvaro Morata put the game away with ten minutes remaining.
United have enjoyed a much smoother path to the final conceding just once in their five matches so far and winning every match in the prescribed 90 minutes with Romelu Lukaku being the chief destroyer of opponents.
Their opening game against Derby County finished 2-0 thanks to late goals from Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku.
Back to back away wins followed that with a 4-0 victory at Yeovil Town and a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town booked their spot in the quarter finals.
A 2-0 win over Brighton sent them to the semi-finals where Alexis Sanchez does what Alexis Sanchez does, scores at Wembley as they beat Tottenham 2-1.
Speaking of Sanchez, he loves playing at Wembley, including games with Chile and Arsenal, he has scored eight goals in eight appearances in the England national team’s stadium.
He bagged a double in his Wembley debut for Chile in 2013 as they beat England 2-0 before playing a crucial role after signing for Arsenal in 2014.
In the FA Cup he has taken it to another level, scoring a double in the 2015 semi-final against Reading as the Gunners won 2-1 in extra time before backing it up with a rocket in Arsenal’s 4-0 Final triumph.
Last season he scored the extra time winner in the semi-final before opening the scoring in the final (coincidently against Chelsea).
He has failed to score on just two occasions at Wembley, in the 2014 Community Shield, his competitive debut for Arsenal, and in United’s Premier League loss to Tottenham in February.
Thankfully for United supporters, he found his touch again in the semi.
With a record such as that you have to back him to score again in this game.
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What is more important however is the winner of the trophy, since that is what they are playing the game for.
Both sides have been maddeningly inconsistent all season with Chelsea’s holes on full display in their Premier League finale defeat at Newcastle.
United closed the season in indifferent form, with just three wins from their last six games.
This has the makings of an even final with the two meetings between the teams being split down the middle.
Chelsea won at Stamford Bridge, while Manchester United claimed the Old Trafford encounter.
The impact of both managers cannot be understated here as both will set up teams with a defensive focus, looking to stifle the creativity on the other side.
An early goal should really open this game up and it won’t be a repeat of the A-League Grand Final with just one goal deciding the game, these attackers are just too good to be kept quiet.
Extra time would not be a surprise but I am backing Chelsea to get the job done here.
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