The most important FA Cup

 

 

The Carabao Cup and Premier League trophy for the 2018 season have already found their place on the shelves of Etihad Stadium at Manchester City. The rest of the clubs have to fight for the FA Cup while Liverpool still have a shot at the Champions League trophy.

This is what makes this year’s FA Cup very special. Tottenham need the FA Cup more than any other team to confirm hype about their significant leap in standards over the last two years in which Mauricio Pochettino has been in charge.

This is what makes today’s match against Manchester United very important to both clubs. For United, it is a last chance for silverware after unsuccessful campaigns in the Premiere League and Champions League.

As a sign that Mourinho is taking the game seriously, he dropped some players for the 2-0 victory against Bournemouth after a lacklustre display against West Brom in which United lost. Mourinho said it’s not the price tag that determines the starting 11 but current form. It was an implicit warming to his charges to tune up or risk being reduced to bench warmers for the big match.

Wembley is a familiar hunting ground for Tottenham this season because it has been their home ground. Besides, Pochettino has beaten Mourinho 10 times in 14 encounters. But Mourinho has won 25 major trophies while Pochettino has never won any in his managerial career. So, it’s youth versus experience between the managers, a familiar debate around these parts if you follow politics. Too close to call this one.

On Sunday, Chelsea play against Southampton in another mouthwatering FA semi-final. Chelsea also need the FA Cup to give their supporters something to cheer for in a season that has been disappointing for many reasons.

A meeting of the two teams a fortnight ago yielded fireworks as Chelsea came from two goal down to beat Southampton 3-2. Olivier Giroud was the star of the show. He is likely to start a head of Alvaro Morata who was also guilt of profligacy after missing at close range against Burnley on Thursday night.

Conte rested most of his starting 11 by making six changes. Willian, Hazard, Christensen, Fabregas were all on the bench against Burnley. Conte knows that he needs to win the FA Cup which he lost in the final last season.

If not for that reason then at least to save his job or at least to bring a level of respectability to a club that were defending champions of the Premier League but on the verge of missing out of the top four finish (Champions League) which is unacceptable by Abramovich’s standards. A win for Chelsea will be a bonus.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Man City for a well deserved league trophy after displaying what my colleague Garry Chirwa likes to call ‘some swashbuckling attacking football’. n

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