The FA Cup returns this weekend for the eagerly anticipated semi-finals, involving three teams who will be desperate to clinch their last chance of silverware this season and another who will need to balance out the prospect of an unlikely trophy win with their hopes of staving off relegation.
Indeed, Manchester United face Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, while last year’s finalists Chelsea will take on Southampton on Sunday. But which club has the best chance of claiming this season’s FA Cup? Football FanCast’s expert writers share their predictions ahead of the semi-final showdowns…
“The pressure of not winning a trophy since 2007-08 is weighing heavy, but the narrative in the FA Cup seems to side with Tottenham, given the predicaments of the other semi-finalists. They have proven in the past that they are capable of beating Manchester United, and being at Wembley will give them an added boost. Chelsea’s players seem disinterested, while Southampton are struggling to get over the line at the moment. The opportunity to head to the new stadium with a trophy under their belts will be an added incentive for Spurs. It just seems like it’s meant to be this time.”
“Having failed to progress past the last 16 stage of the Champions League and having lost out to Manchester City in the Premier League, as well as missing out on the opportunity to retain the League Cup, Jose Mourinho will be determined to finish the season with at least one major trophy in order to better Pep Guardiola’s haul since he arrived in England.
“While the Red Devils were beaten at home by West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, they are a team that will likely produce a big reaction following such a disappointing result and should they see off Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday, they would undoubtedly be the favourites to lift the prestigious trophy against either Chelsea or Southampton next month.”
“This is their year. We all know their ultimate ambition is making a consistent challenge for the Premier League title but winning their first FA Cup since 1991 would be a tangible indicator of progress under Mauricio Pochettino and the perfect reward for what has been a transitional season at Wembley.
“Spurs have beaten United in the last three meetings away from Old Trafford and if Pochettino sets his side out in the manner of a home encounter, pushing Mourinho’s side into defensive mode like last time out at Wembley ,then they should have enough to progress to the showpiece final. Finals are of course unpredictable but against Southampton or Chelsea, you would have to make Spurs the favourites to lift the trophy.”
“I think the eventual winner will come from Saturday’s semi-final and this Tottenham side is more than capable of beating United. Spurs blew Mourinho’s men away at Wembley in January and will fancy their chances of doing similar again this weekend. Chelsea should see off Southampton but with Antonio Conte on his way out in the summer, it is hard to see him or his players matching the commitment of Pochettino and Spurs in May’s final. Spurs simply need the trophy much more.”
“Chelsea have been at nowhere near their best this season and they’ve lost to both United and Tottenham since the start of February. But they should make much lighter work of Southampton than they did last weekend, simply because Mark Hughes will be focused on Premier League survival, and while there could be some late jostling for final standings within the Premier League’s top four between Spurs and the Red Devils, the Blues already know they won’t qualify for the Champions League.
“That gives them more time to prepare and Conte will want to end his spell at Stamford Bridge (assuming he does leave this summer) on the kind of high that suggests he should have been given more backing in the transfer market. Likewise, for all of Chelsea’s tribulations this season, the Italian is still a fantastic tactician, they still have some brilliant talents and their 3-4-3 setup is still an awkward formation to play against.”
“Since the very start of the season it’s seemed clear that the top six teams would share the spoils. Southampton have a chance to upset that apple cart, but that would be a severe upset.
“If it’s between the other three, it’s something of a toss-up, and given the fact that United are demonstrably the second best team in the Premier League, that they proved they know how to win with two trophies last season, and Jose Mourinho’s ability to organise a team who can do just about enough to ultimately clinch victory, I think United will come away with the trophy.
If they do, expect Mourinho to point out the fact that since he and Guardiola both arrived in Manchester almost two years ago, the Portuguese would have won three trophies to the Catalan’s two.”