FA Cup runs so often feature shock exits and the classic line ‘the magic of the FA Cup’, but this season has been slightly different. The final four left in the competition are Leicester City, Southampton, Chelsea and Manchester City. Three of those four teams are either on the cusp of a top-four place or already vacating one- leaving Southampton as the underdogs.
The semi-final tie between Chelsea and Manchester City will be one to watch, that’s for sure; it could even be a preview to the Champions League final if results fall their way. The real question is, however, how did both sides get this far in the first place?
FA Cup Runs: Chelsea and Manchester City
FA Cup Runs So Far: Chelsea
Pitted in an easy third round draw against League Two Morecambe, goals from Mason Mount, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz secured a convincing 4-0 victory. It was a game that saw Kai Havertz and Timo Werner impress for the first time, too, and many believed they’d kick on from that game.
Entering the fourth round, again, Chelsea were handed the easy draw- this time against Championship side Luton Town. And like the previous round, they denied any possibility of FA Cup magic with a swift 3-1 victory. This time the main man was Tammy Abraham. The forward netted a statement-sending treble of goals to silence his critics.
Luton’s goal from Jack Clark made little difference in preventing the Chelsea train towards the next round. And so the fith round followed. Once again, following the trend, Chelsea were handed a draw they could bypass with relative ease.
This time, it was a trip to Barnsley which awaited the Blues in what should’ve been a routine day at the office. Except, it was the exact opposite. Chelsea were forced to grind out a 1-0 victory courtesy of another goal from Tammy Abraham. They may have reached the next round, but it was far from convincing.
Nonetheless, the quarter-finals awaited Thomas Tuchel’s new side, as did a tie against Premier League strugglers Sheffield United. Chelsea were, of course, favourites again, but Sheffield United proved their credentials against the top sides last season, so a bypass to the next round was no guarantee.
Yet, like most games under Tuchel, the Blues remained defensively impenetrable before sealing a 2-0 win courtesy of a late strike by Hakim Ziyech to book the showdown of all showdowns against Manchester City– their toughest test yet.
FA Cup Runs So Far: Manchester City
Now on for a quadruple, Manchester City will be desperate to win the FA Cup after being knocked out by Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side in the final four last season. This time, it is Chelsea who await in the final four. But, how did the Citizens reach this stage once again this season?
Unlike Chelsea, Manchester City have been far from convincing at various stages in the cup this season, despite easier draws early on. The third round saw them overcome Birmingham City in convincing fashion with a brace from Bernardo Silva accompanying Phil Foden’s strike to set up a dream tie for Cheltenham Town.
The 3-1 scoreline in the fourth round against Cheltenham suggests it was a game of relative ease for City. In contrast, it was anything but. Alfie May’s strike with 30 minutes to go sent shockwaves around English football. As we reached the 80th minute, too, many were beginning to believe before Pep Guardiola took those dreams and crushed them with his bare hands.
People believed that the magic of the FA Cup would prevail, but swift goals from Phil Foden, Silva, and Ferran Torres soon ended Cheltenham’s hope of progressing.
With the previous scare in mind, City went on to dismantle Swansea City in the next round 3-1. Their toughest test so far then arrived with a trip to Goodison Park. As we’ve seen so often this season, however, the task did not phase Guardiola’s side.
Manchester City professionally swept Everton aside in the final ten minutes with goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne, setting up a Wembley semi-final clash against Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea.
Both FA Cup runs have been convincing, but who will come out on top?
Chelsea Could Defeat Manchester City and Send Statement
If you cast your minds back to the 17/18 season, Liverpool ended Manchester City’s unbeaten run in stunning fashion with a 4-3 win at Anfield. The win was not just three points for the Reds, however.
It was also a statement, a warning that they were ready to compete. Two years later and they had overcome City to win their first Premier League title.
Now, Chelsea have the same chance to lay down a statement and defeat Manchester City. The pace of the Chelsea offence can expose the weakness of Manchester City’s high-line on the counter-attack and perhaps hand Paris Saint-Germain the blueprints on how to overcome Guardiola’s side in the process.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City
Embed from Getty Images