The FA Cup is prestigious – dating from 1871 it’s the world’s oldest soccer competition – though with television money pumping up other competitions it has diminished in importance. It’s a trophy valuable for clubs not competing for anything greater. Liverpool would consider it to be kind of a big deal.
Liverpool Season: No, the domestic cup double does not absolve Liverpool from being a league laughingstock. They have dropped an incredible 30 points at home this season. If the Reds do not win their final two league matches, they will finish with their lowest point total in the three point per win era. If Fulham pass them, it will be the club’s worst league finish since rejoining the top division in 1962.
Liverpool have had an insipid close to the season, winning just three of their last 13 matches in the league.
Chelsea Season: The old guard won the tug of war. Andre Villas-Boas was fired. The Blues have found their form, sort of. They likely will not qualify for the Champions League through finishing in the top four, but they can still win the Champions League itself, as they upset Barcelona to reach the final. The Blues have been erratic under Di Matteo, as evidenced by their last week. They crushed QPR 6-1 on Sunday. They then lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle on Wednesday.
Head to Head: These teams face off for the 31st time in the last eight years. Most have been fierce and competitive. Most have been an all out assault on aesthetics. This season the clubs have met twice, with Liverpool winning on both occasions. They beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Nov. 20 and 2-0 in the Carling Cup quarterfinal on Nov. 29.
Suspensions: Normally, one might suspect Chelsea would look ahead to the more important Champions League final, but four probable starters – Terry, Ivanovic, Meireles and Ramires – will be suspended for that match. With nothing else to play four, those players should be going for it here.
Consistency: Didier Drogba has appeared in five domestic cup finals for Chelsea, and scored in all five of them. Chelsea have won four of the five.
Prediction: Chelsea play with little ambition under Di Matteo, holding fast in a condensed defensive shell around the penalty area. It’s hard to see Liverpool cracking that nut with the ball. It’s hard to see them not shipping a couple poor goals on the counterattack. Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool.
[Photo via Getty]