Having already beaten them three times this season, you would think that Manchester United now get to keep Chelsea. With Ole back at the wheel – make up your mind, Rio – can the Red Devils make it a quartet of wins against their west London rivals in 2019/20? They won the last FA Cup meeting between the teams too, in round five last year.
The sad truth is that whoever does come out on top in the second of this season’s FA Cup semi-finals is likely to get swept aside by Manchester City in the final. Maybe not to the extent that Watford were last season, but you never know.
As much as nobody likes to undermine the oldest cup competition any more than it has been over the last two decades, the fact remains that the most important battle between these teams this season is the one to secure Champions League qualification.
With two games to play, Chelsea are a point clear of Leicester and United, who clash on the final day. There’s every chance both of these Cup semi-finalists will finish in the top four.
But, as decorated as Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were as players, their managerial CVs are rather thin. A trophy, especially if combined with a Champions League finish, will make 2019/20 a decent season.
Following United’s 2-0 win at Selhurst Park on Thursday night, they only have two days to recover before this match. Chelsea last played on Tuesday, in a home stroll against Norwich, so that should give them an advantage ahead of this one. Solskjaer hasn’t been rotating his team either, so unless he does so here, many of his players will be playing their sixth match in 20 days.
And the Blues are due a bit of luck in this fixture, having seen two goals wiped out by VAR the last time these two met. As the fresher side in what should be a tight match, Chelsea will prevail.
One thing which might hold the Blues back is United’s remarkable ability to win penalties. They have been awarded 25 Premier League spot-kicks in the last two seasons, when the champions from 2018/19 and 2019/20 have had just nine between them.
And who’s that in the black, on hand to point to the spot in the most flamboyant way possible? Why, it’s only the ref who awards penalties more often than any other top-flight whistler, Mike Dean.
Mike Dean has a lockdown beard.
And I’ll be honest. I f*cking love it. pic.twitter.com/knHBrM9XsV
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) June 21, 2020
With the Tranmere super fan running things, there will probably be a penalty awarded on Sunday.
We should be set for an entertaining match. Chelsea have only had two league matches against the other top clubs this season in which there were not at least three goals.
One was their 2-0 win at Tottenham in which the home side had Heung-Min Son sent off, the other was the aforementioned clash with United where the VAR denied them two goals by very fine margins. The Carabao Cup clash between the sides saw a 2-1 score line too, so expect goals.
All of United’s key attackers are in form, so picking a goal scorer bet will not be easy. Odion Ighalo has started both FA Cup ties since he joined the club, scoring three goals along the way. In fact, include the Europa League and the former Watford man has scored in all four of his starts for United. If he’s in Solskjaer’s side from the off, he’s definitely worth considering.
But, if Ole goes full strength, it should be a choice between Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. The former has scored six goals since the restart, and the joint-most away goals in the big six mini league since the start of 2018/19, so Martial’s your man.
If Olivier Giroud is in Lampard’s XI, he’s the Chelsea man to pick in the scorer markets. The Frenchman has scored in his last five starts and loves this competition. Giroud has won the FA Cup four times, netting the opening goal in the Blues’ semi-final win over Southampton in 2018.
Other players to watch for are Willian and Ross Barkley. The former is on spot kick duty, while the latter has scored in three of Chelsea’s four FA Cup games this season, so might get the nod to start, but I’m going with Giroud to score from a Chelsea point of view.
Tips for Chelsea v Man Utd on Sunday 18:00
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