Liverpool return to Wembley with their sights set on a cup double, while victory for Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup final could be the first stage of a more significant success.
In a classic clash between North and South, seven-time winners Liverpool will be keen to get one over their biggest modern day rival, whom they have met an incredible 30 times in the last eight years. Chelsea have been the dominant force in the world’s oldest competition in recent years, winning three of the last five editions. Liverpool have already collected a trophy at Wembley this season though, having captured the Carling Cup by beating Cardiff on penalties and they now have a chance of becoming the first club to win the domestic cup double for a 2nd time.
The pair have previously met 9 times in the competition with Chelsea winning five of those ties and interestingly none of those meetings ever ended in a draw. But the Reds have beaten Chelsea in their last four clashes in all competitions, although the Blues will point to their impressive record of having lost just one of their last 33 FA Cup games. The added subplot provided by Fernando Torres only increases the drama surrounding the game and just over a year from his record £50m transfer from Liverpool to Chelsea, the mercurial Spaniard could strike a deadly blow to his former employers at Wembley. There has been a strong Italian flavour in recent years as Roberto Mancini lifted the trophy last year, 12 months after Carlo Ancelotti did the same with Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo has a chance to make it a happy treble for Italian managers on Saturday.
The worry for caretaker manager Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo will be at centre-back, where David Luiz and Gary Cahill (both hamstring) are serious doubts to be able to partner John Terry at the back. The likelihood is that neither will be risked and Branislav Ivanovic will start alongside the Blues’ captain. Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard should return to the starting line-up after starting the midweek defeat by Newcastle on the bench, while Fernando Torres’ recent streak of form, including a hat-trick against QPR on Sunday, may not be enough for him to retain his place ahead of Didier Drogba.
Key men Pepe Reina, Steven Gerrard and Luiz Suarez were just three of nine changes for the lacklustre setback against the Cottagers and are certain to take their place in the starting XI this weekend. Andy Carroll, the Reds’ semi-final hero after his late winner against Everton, played the full 90 minutes in midweek having missed the resounding success against Norwich with a slight injury concern and should partner Suarez upfront.
Road to Wembley
3rd Round – Chelsea 4-0 Portsmouth
4th Round – QPR 0-1 Chelsea
5th Round – Chelsea 1-1 Birmingham
5th Round Replay – Birmingham 0-2 Chelsea
Quarter Finals – Chelsea 5-2 Leicester City
Semi Finas – Tottenham 1-5 Chelsea
3rd Round – Liverpool 5-1 Oldham
4th Round – Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United
5th Round – Liverpool 6-1 Brighton
Quarter Finals – Liverpool 2-1 Stoke
Semi Finas – Liverpool 2-1 Everton
Head to Head
29 Nov 11 – Carling Cup – Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool
20 Nov 11 – Premier League – Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
06 Feb 11 – Premier League – Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool
07 Nov 10 – Premier League – Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
02 May 10 – Premier League – Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea – LWDDW
Liverpool – LWLWW
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Meireles; Ramires, Lampard, Mata; Drogba.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique; Spearing, Henderson; Downing, Gerrard, Suarez; Carroll.
Chelsea – 11/8, Draw – 9/4, Liverpool – 2/1
The FA Cup final has become a traditionally cagey affair – four of the last five have ended 1-0 – and Chelsea know all about coming out on top in them, having reached three of those five finals and won every one.
Both teams have endured inconsistent and frustrating seasons but Chelsea have arguably shown more quality, particularly up front. They have more viable options in attack – if the battering ram that is Didier Drogba cannot break Liverpool down, then the resurgent Fernando Torres will surely relish the chance to further bury his demons against his former side. The stage may well be set for the Spaniard to make the difference off the bench and seal a familiar triumph for the Blues.
Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool