FA Cup Final

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FA Cup Final preview: Chelsea, Man United both looking for season-saving silverware

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  • Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez has scored eight goals in his last eight games at Wembley Stadium
  • Should Eden Hazard play, he’ll make his 300th Chelsea appearance
  • Winning club will receive $2.43 million in prize money

Two teams looking to end the season on a high note face off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, with the FA Cup trophy on the line.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup here ]

Though Manchester United finished in second place in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho’s side has been miles off the pace compared to Manchester City, and fans still have a bitter taste from the club’s defeat to Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League. Chelsea on the other hand has been even more disappointing, and though the Blues made it back to the FA Cup for the second consecutive year, a season without a trophy after winning the Premier League title would put the bow on a very disappointing campaign.

With the World Cup ahead, and Antonio Conte‘s possible departure, there’s so much to watch for in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on if he feels he has to win a trophy this season:

“This game is very important because we can finish a difficult season with a trophy. It’s important for the players, the coach and the fans to finish the season with a trophy. We are focused on this target. We have to try to do everything to win the game. We need to be focused. It’s a really important competition, the oldest trophy in the world. My players will be focused on the game for sure.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on whether winning or losing the final changes the perception of the season:

“Of course it makes a difference, but one thing is to make a difference and another thing is to consider the season good or bad because of one match. When I analyse the work I did, when I analyse the effort I put in, when I analyse everything we all did at the club, that obviously includes the most important people at the club, who are the players.

“I’m not going to analyse them because of one very important match. But I know what my players did, I know what I put in, I know the effort, I know the positive things, I know the negative things and I’m not going to change my analysis of the season because of the result of one match. Not at all.”

Prediction

This game can go anyway, with two unpredictable teams. I think Manchester United gets the edge though, as Paul Pogba seems to get up for the big games and at the moment, this is the biggest one left on his club schedule before he joins up with Les Bleus. Chelsea make a game of it for a bit, but Man United ultimately prevails, in extra time. Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea

FA Cup Final keys: Chelsea vs. Man Utd

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One last time in the 2017-2018 season, two of the biggest Premier League sides will face off for England’s most revered cup.

Chelsea and Manchester United head to Wembley this Saturday with plenty on the line, and a win for either side can help alleviate some rough feelings about this year’s league and European campaign.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A win for Man United gives manager Jose Mourinho a ton of momentum heading into the summer, where he’s expected to make multiple signings and shake up his squad as Man United looks to compete with Manchester City. On the other side, Chelsea has had a disappointing season after winning the league title in 2017, but an FA Cup title can help give Antonio Conte one last big win as he likely leaves the club this summer.

Here’s three keys to watch for in Saturday’s big-time matchup.


Unleash the Pogba

While he’s been stellar in some matches, Paul Pogba has been quite underwhelming in others, whether due to injury, lack of form, or issues with confidence due to being benched by Mourinho.

But when Pogba is at his best, he’s nearly impossible to defend or get the ball off of, and he adds a crucial physical and pacy presence in the middle of the park for Man United that the club doesn’t have otherwise. When Pogba is unleashed on the left side of a 4-3-3, defenses beware.

Hazard/Willian can make the difference

The two tricky wingers can be a nightmare for defenders when they’re on their game, and they’re set to play at a high level with their last game before the World Cup. When the pair have the ball, they can either create chances for themselves or create space for others, and it will be crucial for Chelsea to get them involved early and often, cutting inside and combining with likely center forward starter Olivier Giroud.

Sanchez on the wing

Alexis Sanchez can truly be the difference maker for Man United. He’s had a muted impact since joining in January from Arsenal but he loves the Wembley Stadium turf. Sanchez scored in 2015 and 2017 as Arsenal took home FA Cup titles and should he do it again, he could win his second straight title before a rare summer off.

Conte’s verdict on FA Cup’s controversial flashpoints

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Failing at a first season double hasn’t taken the shine off a fine first season for Antonio Conte at Chelsea.

The Italian mastermind was adamant that his season was great, and that his side just had a rough day at the office on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea | Three things from Wembley ]

That’s not just about form, either. There was, depending on your viewpoint, either a handball, offside, both, or neither in the run-up to Arsenal’s first goal, and Victor Moses was sent-off for diving when it appeared that he anticipated a body challenge that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain never provided.

Did it look like a dive? Yep. Was it? No, but that’s soccer. Here’s Conte’s thoughts on both:

“It’s a clear handball – it’s very clear. I don’t understand why the referee didn’t see this situation. It can happen. Players can make mistakes – referees too. At the end of the season I saw a lot of mistakes against us. Manchester United, Bournemouth. We were unlucky.”

“The Moses yellow card was a key moment. It’s very difficult to tell [whether it was a yellow] – I saw contact with Moses and the defender, but was there contact for a penalty? I don’t know.”

Again, I don’t believe there was diving intent by Moses yet understand why Anthony Taylor saw what he saw. As for the Sanchez handball and Ramsey offside… different story.

Wenger on future, FA Cup win: “It’s about competence.”

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Arsene Wenger is enjoying his time in the sun, but there’s certainly more than a trace of defiance in the legendary manager’s tone.

Under duress for most of a trying season at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger stood tall after leading Arsenal to a controversial win in the FA Cup Final.

The win is the Gunners’ third in four seasons, and for some would signal a fitting exit from the hot seat at Arsenal.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea | Three things from Wembley ]

Wenger doesn’t see it that way, doubling down on the idea that fans can be as critical as they want outside the stadium if they support their club once the ball is in play.

Wenger admitted that he’s keeping the winner’s medal from this victory, something he’s rarely if ever done. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to leave London, and he’s not one for making a decision based on sentiment.

“There’s no perfect way. I just want to do well for this club. Apart from that, it’s down to the board members. Am I the right man to lead this club further and that’s it? And for me to decide, It’s up to the board and me. It’s not about popularity it’s about competence.”

As for his future?

“It would be ridiculous that 20 years depends on one game. Overall, we’ll know more next week.

WATCH: Sanchez scores hugely controversial goal in FA Cup final

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Alexis Sanchez’s goal put Arsenal 1-0 up early on in the FA Cup final against Chelsea in hugely controversial fashion.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup final here

Initially the goal was called out for offside on Aaron Ramsey who didn’t touch the ball but was mightily close to the action, but referee Anthony Taylor overruled his linesman and gave the goal.

There was also a hint of a handball on Sanchez’s part as the ball ricocheted off him in a tackle.

Watch the video below as Chelsea were left fuming but Arsenal didn’t care…