The FA Cup will be draped in blue by the close of play on Saturday, as Leicester City and Chelsea battle it out for the chance to lift the prestigious trophy in front of 21,000 Wembley spectators.
The Foxes will be taking part in their fifth final as they search for their maiden FA Cup crown, while Saturday’s game represents Chelsea’s 15th appearance in the showpiece event as they seek a ninth triumph.
Brendan Rodgers’s men dumped Southampton out in the semi-finals to make plans for May 15, while Thomas Tuchel’s side ended Manchester City’s quadruple dream in the final four to book their spot in the 140th FA Cup final.
The Blues are also going head-to-head with Leicester for a spot in the top four as the Premier League season heads for its final straight, but having come so close yet so far under Frank Lampard in last year’s FA Cup, Tuchel needs no added incentive to get the job done this week.
In doing so, the German boss would follow a similar path to that of Mikel Arteta – who took over at Arsenal halfway through the season and led them to FA Cup glory last year – and it was the Gunners boss who got the better of Tuchel in Wednesday’s London derby.
In a turn of events that Arsenal fans have become accustomed to seeing from their own team, Jorginho was forced into making a mistake and so nearly turned the ball into his own net had it not been for the heroics of Kepa Arrizabalaga, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on hand to set up Emile Smith Rowe for the game’s only goal in the 16th minute.
Chelsea huffed and puffed but just could not find a way past an inspired Arsenal defence at Stamford Bridge – where they had only previously conceded to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League under Tuchel – and a momentum-killing defeat is not what Chelsea needed before their 15th FA Cup final.
Lampard oversaw routine wins over Morecambe and Luton Town before being relieved of his duties, while Tuchel has witnessed his side dump Barnsley, Sheffield United and the former quadruple-chasers Manchester City out of the tournament, with Hakim Ziyech netting the only goal of the game against the latter.
While the trigger-happy Chelsea board are renowned for chopping and changing the Blues’ managers, one thing has been consistent with all of them – their penchant for cup finals. Indeed, Chelsea have now reached the showpiece event of a competition for the fifth year running, and there is the small matter of a Champions League final to come later this month.
Saturday’s FA Cup final represents 119th meeting between Chelsea and Leicester in all competitions, with the Blues boasting 57 wins compared to 27 for the Foxes.
Chelsea dumped Leicester out of the FA Cup in last year’s quarter-finals, and they are unbeaten in nine previous meetings against the Foxes in the competition – winning seven and drawing two.
The quarter-final win represents the Blues’ only win against the Foxes in their last six attempts, though, as Lampard oversaw a 2-0 defeat to Leicester in January before being given the boot.
How Chelsea could line up to defeat Leicester City
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Ziyech, Mount; Werner
Chelsea just could not find a way past Arsenal’s three-man defence on Wednesday night, and with Leicester set to deploy a similar system at Wembley, this should be a truly intriguing FA Cup final.
Leicester, and Rodgers in particular, command plenty of respect as they bid to win the FA Cup for the first time ever, but we think that the Foxes will just fall short as Chelsea get their hands on the crown.