FA Cup Fever: A Preview of the Semi-Finals
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FA Cup fever hits our glands again this weekend as the roars and trembles of Wembley deafen the football calendar. This year’s semi-finals will see two Goliath encounters between four of the top six teams in the Premier League and a new name being engraved on this year’s trophy following the defeat of defending champions (Manchester United) in the previous round to table-toppers Chelsea.
We cast our thoughts ahead of two enticing cup ties and predict who we expect to grace the hallowed turf in May’s showpiece final.
Chelsea vs Tottenham
Both teams are currently engrossed in a two-horse race to be crowned champions of England in the football league betting stakes, but this contest could have a significant bearing on the destination of the league title given their contrasting fortunes in recent times. Antonio Conte’s runaway train has derailed with two defeats in their last four reducing their lead at the top to just four points, whilst a resurgent Spurs have amassed a club-record seven consecutive wins and consequently will go into this as slight favourites.
Chelsea have now gone 10 Premier League games without keeping a clean sheet for the first time since December 1996 and a rampant Spurs are coming off the back of a dominant 4-0 win at home to Bournemouth – the eighth time this campaign that Mauricio Pochettino’s men have scored four or more goals in a game.
The last meeting between the two sides was at the turn of the year as a Dele Alli double ended the Blues’ run of 13 straight wins and gained revenge for their narrow loss at Stamford Bridge towards the back end of November.
Both clubs have an extensive love affair with this competition having amassed 15 FA Cup triumphs between them with Spurs winning eight to Chelsea’s seven.
The two sides met at this stage in the tournament five years ago with Chelsea trouncing their London rivals 5-1, although the victory was blemished in controversy following a dubious goal-line decision in favour of the Blues. Roberto Di Matteo’s side would go onto lift the cup at the expense of Liverpool and this remains the last time that the iconic trophy was in their grasp.
You would have to go back 26 years for Tottenham’s last FA Cup success – a memorable 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest with an unfortunate Des Walker diverting the ball past his own keeper.
UK betting sites have Chelsea at 13/8 to beat Spurs but who will emerge victorious out of this Premier League title-chasing pair? Expect an edgy Chelsea backline and a vibrant spurs attack – it’s going to be a classic.
Prediction: Chelsea 1 – 2 Tottenham
Arsenal vs. Manchester City
Three weeks ago, these two sides played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Emirates with both defences scattered at sea.
This competition has proved to be a saving grace for an under-fire Arsene Wenger in recent campaigns with the Gunners winning it twice in the last three seasons. Arsenal have lifted the coveted prize 12 times – a record they share with Manchester United.
The latest football news suggests it’s the chance for Wenger to start to rebuild his legacy rather than it being his last chance of a trophy, but it won’t be easy.
The FA Cup is the only one that serial winner Pep Guardiola can hold realistic ambitions of lifting in his first season in English football. Victory in the FA Cup would mask what has been a disappointing campaign for the blue half of Manchester having failed to mount a serious title challenge or make the latter stages of the Champions League.
The two sides last faced off in this competition 46 years ago as Arsenal came through by the odd goal in three during their fifth round clash at what was Maine Road back then. Today football betting sites in the UK are comfortably backing City, with the Blues odds on with most bookmakers.
Despite this, both modern-day defences have been ropey at best over the course of the campaign, although the return of City’s talismanic captain Vincent Kompany in Saturday’s impressive 0-3 win at Southampton could be the decisive factor.
Arsenal still appear to be lacking belief and are still over-reliant on Alexis Sanchez who has been touted as a future addition to the star-studded squad at the Etihad. Expect goals and City to be too strong for the North-London club – will this spell the end for Wenger?
Prediction: Arsenal 0 – 3 Manchester City