The finals of the 2021 Football Association Challenge Cup is set to take place on Saturday as Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City look to take home the famed trophy.
With Manchester City’s coronation as Premier League champions on Wednesday, all eyes across England are now on the FA Cup final. The fixture will also mark the return of large crowds to stadiums, with more than 20,000 fans expected to be present at Wembley for the encounter.
Here’s our preview of Saturday’s FA Cup final between Leicester City and Chelsea:
Leicester City are having another phenomenal run in the Premier League under Brendan Rodgers as they are all but secured of a top-four finish once again.
This will be the first FA Cup final for the Foxes since their return to the Premier League and this will be their first FA Cup title if they manage to defeat Chelsea on Saturday.
The Foxes have defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford in the quarterfinals and Southampton in the semifinals on their road to Wembley. They have won three of their last five fixtures, losing only to a sensational Newcastle United last week.
With their victory over Manchester United earlier this week, the team now sits comfortably in the third spot with 66 points, eight points clear of fifth-placed West Ham.
Brendan Rodgers will be eagerly hoping that Jonny Evans recovers in time for the fixture, but the rest of the team is fit and is available to choose from.
The Blues were eighth in the Premier League when Frank Lampard was replaced by Thomas Tuchel. Since taking over the reins at Stamford Bridge, Thomas Tuchel has turned around the fortunes of his team.
Chelsea currently sit fourth in the table with a Champions League berth for the next season almost secure. So complete was their transformation into an aggressive outfit that they managed to subdue European giants Real Madrid to set up an all-English Champions League final against Manchester City.
The Stamford Bridge side entered their first FA Cup final in five years after eliminating Manchester City in the semifinals. The Blues have won three of their last five matches, including victories over Real Madrid in the Champions League and Premier League champions Manchester City.
Chelsea’s latest game against Arsenal ended in a 1-0 home defeat and it is bound to affect their morale. But Thomas Tuchel made seven changes to the team to keep the squad fit for the FA Cup final, and the absence of key players showed on the field with Chelsea lacking the precision and intensity that has become typical of the team under Tuchel.
With key players being rested for the game on Wednesday, Chelsea will be back with full strength on Saturday’s final. Mateo Kovacic and Andreas Christensen are the only injury doubts and Tuchel will be keen to get the former into his team in time for the fixture.
HEAD TO HEAD
Chelsea hold the upper hand in the historic head-to-head between both sides, with the Blues winning 57 of the 118 encounters so far.
But since the return of Leicester to the top-flight of English football, the rivalry has been more competitive with three of the last five encounters between both sides ending in a draw.
Chelsea have eliminated Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup last year and Brendan Rodgers will be eager to avenge that defeat.
The Foxes won the latest encounter against Chelsea in the Premier League 2-0 in January and the teams will be facing each other once again next week. With two back-to-back fixtures between both teams, the battle between the third and fourth-placed clubs will be keenly watched.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Brendan Rodgers has managed to build a quality side that can challenge the dominance of ‘Big Six’ clubs in the Premier League. But inconsistency plagues the Foxes as evident in recent encounters with Manchester City and Newcastle.
Chelsea have become a force to reckon with once again after Thomas Tuchel transformed his side into one that plays aggressive football, and a victory in the FA Cup final would make Manchester City nervous.
We expect Chelsea to edge out Leicester in a tight contest and take home their ninth FA Cup title.
Leicester City Predicted XI: Schmeichel, Castagne, Fofana, Soyuncu, Thomas, Albrighton, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison, Vardy, Iheanacho.
Chelsea Predicted XI: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, James, Kante, Jorginho, Mount, Chilwell, Werner, Pulisic.
When: Saturday, 15 May 2021, 9:45 PM IST
Where: Wembley Stadium, London.
Where to Watch: The FA Cup final fixture will be streamed on Sony Ten 2 HD and Sony Ten 2 Channels. The encounter will also be streamed live on SonyLiv.
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