FA Cup Final Preview: Point to prove for Chelsea as Liverpool continue quadruple chase

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Saturday will see Chelsea and Liverpool go at it for the fourth time this season, with another trophy on the line. This time, the Blues and the Reds will be aiming to lift the FA Cup trophy for the ninth and eighth time, respectively. Having already met in the EFL Cup final back in February, the two will reconvene at Wembley nearly three months later.

Here is a preview of each team’s road to the final, FA Cup history, and my prediction as to who will take the trophy back home with them.

FA Cup Final Preview: Chelsea

Previous FA Cup finals: 15 (8 won)

Last FA Cup title: 2017-18

Road to Final: Chesterfield (5-1), Plymouth Argyle (2-1, AET), Luton Town (3-2), Middlesbrough (2-0), Crystal Palace (2-0)

Form Book: LWDLDW

Since their last meeting with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, fortunes have changed for Chelsea. Following the defeat on penalties, they have lost four of their next 17 games, winning eleven and drawing two. This includes a London derby loss to Arsenal, defeat at relegation-threatened Everton, and a Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid.

Add on to that the drama taking place off the field regarding their owners, and it is evident that troubling times have befallen the Blues. In fact, they could even face demotion from the Premier League if they are unable to finalize new ownership in due course. With Saturday’s cup final their last chance of silverware this season, full focus will be needed to come out on top.

This is Chelsea’s third straight appearance in the FA Cup final and fourth in five seasons. They lost the last two finals to Arsenal (2019/20) and Leicester (2020/21). Their last success in this competition came in 2017/18 when they got the better of Manchester United. Should the London side lift the cup on Saturday they will be the third most successful team in the tournament’s history outright edging past Tottenham.

After this match, it will be two home matches for Chelsea, hosting Leicester next week Thursday before welcoming relegated Watford three days later. Third in the Premier League with two rounds to go, they just need two points to ensure Champions League football in September. They can finish no lower than fifth in the league.

FA Cup Final Preview: Liverpool

Previous FA Cup finals: 14 (7 won)

Last FA Cup title: 2005-06

Road to Final: Shrewsbury Town (4-1), Cardiff City (3-1), Norwich City (2-1), Nottingham Forest (1-0), Manchester City (3-2)

Form Book: WDWWWW WWWWDW

With one trophy already in the bag, this is Liverpool’s chance to collect a second of what could end up being four trophies.

The battle with Chelsea will be the Merseysiders’ 60th in what will be 63 competitive matches this season. In the 59 matches prior, they have lost just three games within 90 minutes while winning 45 and 11 draws. Only Inter has been able to beat Klopp’s men this calendar year, winning 1-0 on the night but ultimately being knocked out of the Champions League on aggregate.

It has taken Liverpool a decade to return to this stage of the FA Cup, falling short on that occasion too, fittingly enough, Chelsea. The last time the cup was taken back to Anfield was in the 2005-06 campaign, defeating West Ham on penalties in Cardiff. This is just their second final in this tournament since.

Following their third and final match at Wembley this year, a trip to Saint Mary’s to Southampton will take place on Tuesday, giving the players very little time for rest. Their final league match will see the Reds welcome European chasing Wolves on the 21st. Six days later, it will be the Champions League final against Real Madrid. Liverpool are second in the Premier League going into their final two games, just three points behind Manchester City.

Head-to-head this season, my prediction and final words:

All three games between Chelsea and Liverpool this season have ended in a stalemate after 90 minutes, though as previously mentioned, it was the latter that prevailed on penalties in their last meeting. A 1-1 stalemate at Anfield in August was followed by a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge at the start of this year. The last FA Cup meeting came in the 2019-20 season in the round of 16, which was won by Chelsea. Goals from Willian and Ross Barkley on either side of the interval were enough on that occasion.

Who am I backing in this clash? I expect another close encounter here, but for some reason, I do not see it going as far as penalties this time. Chelsea will have revenge on their minds for February and recent years in the cup final, while Liverpool will be out chasing that elusive quadruple. I think the first half will be rather tense, with both sides testing each other. The second half will likely be a bit more open. I am going to tip the Reds here, with a 2-1 result after extra time. I sense they will have that extra bit of belief to help make the difference.

Finally, a reminder of how the FA Cup winners affect England’s European places. In principle, the winners of this trophy are awarded a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage the following season. As both Chelsea and Liverpool will finish in the top 5, that Europa League place originally given to the cup winners will instead be passed down to the sixth-place team in the league.

Just like in February with Liverpool’s EFL Cup success, the UEFA Europa League playoff place attached to that trophy will now be awarded to the seventh-place team in the Premier League at the end of the season.

This will be a tight match with much on the line for both sides. Both clubs have the capability to win the competition, it will just be down to who wants it more and who will do enough to lift the trophy in front of 90,000 people.

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