Don’t miss the magic of the FA Cup Final
Saturday: MOTD Live: FA Cup Final; (BBC One, 4.15pm)
It’s been a football season like no other, with matches continuing to be played behind closed doors and, in recent weeks, off-field events generating more headlines than the players on it.
However, during these times of empty stadiums and talk of a breakaway super leagues, one thing that hasn’t changed is the magic of the FA Cup.
From Merseyside minnows Marine FC of the eighth tier hosting Jose Mourinho’s eight-time winners Tottenham Hotspur, to Crawley Town beating Leeds United, and League Two Cheltenham Town very nearly shocking Pep Guardiola’s mighty Manchester City, the world-famous cup competition never disappoints.
Back in November, 124 teams entered this year’s competition from the first round proper onwards, all hoping to get as far as they can and potentially succeed Arsenal as cup winners.
Now, after 122 games, with 365 goals scored over seven months, the showpiece final takes place.
MOTD presenter Gary Lineker will have his unashamedly biased Leicester City hat on as they take on Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Brendan Rodgers, whose Foxes side are going to their first FA Cup final since 1969, are also in with a real shot at competing in the UEFA Champions League next season.
City made it through to the showpiece after overcoming Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton 1-0 in the semi-final.
Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who has formed a deadly strike partnership with Jamie Vardy of late, finished from close range.
In the opposing dugout today will be German coach Thomas Tuchel who appears to have revolutionised the Blues since replacing Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Chelsea have now reached the FA Cup final in four of the last five seasons, and and also have a UEFA Champions League final to look forward to at the end of this month. Their semi-final victory over runaway Premier League leaders (and their opponents in the European final) Manchester City was seen as a tactical victory for Tuchel over football mastermind Pep Guardiola.
A cagey first half saw both teams trying to feel each other out before Chelsea’s Moroccan midfielder Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring.
A clever run from Timo Werner carved up the City defence and, with goalkeeper Zack Steffen holding a high line, Werner squared the ball to Ziyech, who fired into an open goal.
“It was a very, very strong performance,” Tuchel said after the game. I’m very happy and proud.”
So it’s Leicester versus Chelsea, the Foxes versus the Blues, and Rodgers versus Tuchel, as the destination of the most famous trophy in British domestic football is decided.
All the signs point to what should be an exciting game, and with 20,000 fans hoping to be attendance, the occasion could also be another significant landmark in the return to live spectators at sporting events.
The Leicester-Southampton semi-final was used as a pilot event, with a limited number of spectators allowed at Wembley.
“Even though there were only 4,000 fans, it felt great,” said Rodgers at the time. “It will be amazing when we get supporters back into stadiums. I did hear some Leicester supporters in there and it was really nice.”
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