Date: 19th May 2018 at 11:03am
Written by:

A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s Final against ’s Manchester United.

The traditional end of season showdown for the English game takes place this Saturday. pits ’s Chelsea up against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

This will be the third time these 2 sides have met in the final, after Eric Cantona inspired The Red Devil’s to a big win in 1994 and Didier Drogba scored The Blues’s extra time winner in 2007.

The former was a hugely exciting turned disappointing day for all Chelsea supporters. It was their first return to the final since they had won it in 1970, but ultimately lost to the then best team in the country. The latter was a tight affair in the first official match at the new stadium that emphasised Chelsea’s position as a real footballing force.

This final pits the manager who led The Blues to last season’s Premier League title against the manager who has led them to 3 Premier League titles in total. Mourinho was Chelsea’s manager when they beat their opponents in the 2007 final.

It will be Antonio Conte’s second FA Cup Final in succession. After being slight favourites but losing to Arsenal last season, the Italian may prefer the tag of underdogs this time around. He will have an almost full squad to choose from, with long term absentees David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu but also Emerson Palmieri unavailable. This is unlikely to make any difference to the starting line up as surely will be reinstated on the left flank.

Otherwise, Conte is likely to opt for a 3-5-2 formation and pick what he considers is his strongest side. We can expect Antonio Rudiger to replace Andreas Christensen in the back 3 and to return into the central midfield. However, after their performances against Newcastle United in their previous match, there is a strong case for Ross Barkley to keep his place while Tiemoue Bakayoko returns to the substitute’s bench.

Mourinho will be waiting on a late fitness test on , who has been out since 29 April with an ankle injury. should return and so The Red Devils will also be close to full strength.

However, this may not be a final for the neutral nor the feint hearted. Manchester United have played some very laboured football under the Portuguese manager, with a lot of their own supporters criticising how they play under his guidance.

Meanwhile, Conte is as Italian blooded as they come. He concentrates on his side’s defensive duties more than their attacking and clearly sets his team up to “suffer without the ball”. In a potentially low scoring, tight affair, it could well be everyone involved and watching on who may be suffering.

However, it is the FA Cup Final and there will always be something extra special about it. In what could prove to be a very close match, played with chess style tactics, we can still expect  to see some magic of the cup.

At the end of the day there is a major trophy up for grabs. Mourinho has proved time and again he has the ability to win the biggest matches, but if this is to be Antonio Conte’s last match in charge of The Blues, let’s hope he goes out on a final high.

After all, Chelsea was founded in 1905 and so it’s fitting that 19.05 has proven to be a successful date in their calendar. Can they add 2018 to 2007 and 2012 to the list of finals won on the 19th of May?

Written by Jon Ellis. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue