THE FA Cup semi-finals this weekend look like they’re primed to set up an all-Manchester showdown when the final is held on Aug 1.
There are four heavyweights left in England’s premier cup tournament, indeed, the oldest of all football competitions.
In today’s clash, favourites Man City meet Arsenal, while tomorrow Man United and Chelsea do battle. The two semi-finals will be staged at Wembley Stadium, the venue of the final itself, which will be named the “Heads Up FA Cup Final” in recognition of Prince William’s campaign in support of mental health.
City have played some fantastic football since the return from the lockdown and if the Gunners find them in that sort of form, it could prove rather difficult to knock out the defending champions.
The Citizens are also still in the hunt for the UEFA Champions League trophy, which would make it a rare treble if they do go on and clinch the two pieces of silverware still on the table.
Last season, Pep Guardiola’s side swept all in England — having also captured the league title and the League Cup, which they retained in March.
Man City will be without their lead striker Sergio Aguero, but in Gabriel Jesus they appear to have some cover, albeit not of the same calibre.
The form of Kevin De Bruyne and the recent return to form of Raheem Sterling should add impetus to their bid to win an eighth trophy in just short of three full seasons.
The players themselves know what is at stake and one could clearly see this in an interview the other day of defender Kyle Walker, who spoke of their desire to go out and retain the FA Cup and add the Champions League to their trophy cabinet — the missing piece of their jigsaw.
Arsenal, on the other hand, will be expected to be no pushovers and take the fight to City. Their victory over newly crowned champions Liverpool in midweek should serve as a massive morale boost for Mikel Arteta’s team.
Alexandre Lacazette in particular has looked sharp for the Gunners, who won’t mind how he scores as long as he does.
Man United, who were tipped to see off Crystal Palace in Thursday’s league game, have been installed as favourites to beat Chelsea tomorrow.
The Red Devils, too, have immensely enjoyed their comeback from lockdown with some decent form. Apart from two draws, they have won all their other fixtures. This momentum should hold manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad in good stead tomorrow.
Bruno Fernandes had a game to forget on Monday, but overall he has been an inspiration since arriving at Old Trafford in January.
Solskjaer will be hoping he leads the side with another fine display again, perhaps with support from Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who were both on the scoresheet as Man Utd eased past Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Thursday.
Chelsea have the quality to upset Man United but they have been too erratic to cause any serious threat. If they do conjure up the right result, it might be Olivier Giroud who gets them over the line.
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