12.30pm EST 12:30 Don’t forget that if it’s still like this in around 50 minutes’ time, we will have extra-time. If that’s to be the case, let’s hope it has at least opened up a bit by then. 12.22pm EST 12:22 Regarding that question on London clubs at Wembley, Phil West has crunched some of
Don’t forget that if it’s still like this in around 50 minutes’ time, we will have extra-time. If that’s to be the case, let’s hope it has at least opened up a bit by then.
Regarding that question on London clubs at Wembley, Phil West has crunched some of the numbers so the rest of us didn’t have to:
“Since 1900 (according to Wiki) London clubs playing non-London clubs in the FA Cup final are 28-14 ahead. There are also a few occasions where two London teams were involved, but I ignored them. I’m not sure if this means anything though – as years ago it was quite common for less successful teams to have a cup run only to lose in the final. Comparing results since the year 2007 gives a 6-2 score in favour of London teams.”
Half-time: Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
Nobody would say this has been much good. But, in fairness to Chelsea, it’s probably gone as Sarri intended. They have kept City at arm’s length and limited them to half-chances at best.
45+2 min: Almost severe embarrassment for Otamendi as he heads a Chelsea free-kick towards his own goal, with no opposition player near, and sees it fly only narrowly wide as Ederson dives desperately! So Chelsea have a corner with the half’s last action, but it causes no danger.
45 min: First real bit of spark from Hazard, who does well to outdo Laporte but then, with men arriving very late in support, tries to do a bit too much in a tight space and sees City eventually block his attempt on goal.
43 min: Another City corner, now, and they’re applying some real pressure again. David Luiz beats Laporte to it, but that’s not the end of the story. Zinchenko plays the ball in again and Otamendi – ghosting in at the back post as a minute previously – gets a toe to the ball but not with enough power to beat Kepa.
42 min: Willian concedes a free-kick on the right after Chelsea lose the ball in their own half three times in quick succession while passing out aimlessly in pursuit of nothing. It’s another very dangerous area. De Bruyne’s cross again goes beyond everybody but Sterling, delivering from the left, sees his ball kept alive acrobatically by Otemendi at the far post. It looks good, but Chelsea clear.
39 min: De Bruyne, with a smart touch past David Luiz, reaches the byline but overhits his cross. Sterling, on the other side, twists Azpilicueta about sublimely at first but eventually runs out of space and Chelsea earn a goal kick.
37 min: It really has been low on excitement so far, let’s be honest. Sarri has gone for Get A Result And Save My Job tactics, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest they don’t have a chance of squeaking it out that way. City aren’t moving the ball as they can and chances aren’t really coming.
34 min: It’s not much but we are seeing a bit more from Chelsea now. Kante tries to get away down the right but can’t reach it. City still have the initiative though and force an awkward hack away from Rudiger just outside the six-yard box.
32 min: Chelsea enjoy a little play around the City box, now, and Fernandinho has to be well positioned to stop Hazard latching onto a floated Jorginho ball into the area.
30 min: That’s a deserved yellow card for David Luiz, who agriculturally dumps Bernardo Silva over as the City man wriggles deftly away from him near the right byline. Dangerous free-kick here …
28 min: A shot on target from Aguero, who links with David Silva before firing one from 20 yards, slightly deflected, that Kepa dives onto and holds.
So, in fairness, it’s going as Sarri probably hoped.
26 min: But now Chelsea do have an attack, sweeping upfield adroitly, and earn a free-kick midway inside the City half, a little to the right. It’s their first real chance to put some pressure on. Willian arrows it to the back stick, Pedro heads down but nobody is poised to latch onto it.
25 min: If you were Hazard you’d probably rather be in Madrid than chasing waste paper like this.
22 min: Best bit of action so far – Bernardo Silva floats a lovely right-to-left ball over Azpilicueta and Aguero, deep inside the box, chests down and sets himself before lashing over from an awkward angle.
21 min: Little comes of it. But it’s only City doing any attacking. We’ve not seen Hazard at all yet!
20 min: Maybe possession from the back will die and football will evolve to the extent that, in five years’ time, everyone is playing percentage football and the real heroes are a generation of miniature Dave Bassetts. While we ponder that, Rudiger defends well from a dangerous Bernardo Silva ball and it’s another City corner.
18 min: Some fairly heavy City pressure, now, but Luiz clears two crosses from the left. Chelsea are sitting off until City get 15 yards into their half.
17 min: Kepa looks dodgy with the ball at his feet so far, which doesn’t help the previous point.
16 min: The thing is that Chelsea *insist* on passing the ball around from the back even though there are no options to progress the move and City keep pressing them aggressively. So the ball gets given away every single time. I know it’s the way everyone has to play now but it so often becomes frayed and useless. You’re probably not going to score the perfect goal from there, guys, so why not do it as and when?
13 min: Laporte feeds David Silva in a nice little pocket of space but his touch uncharacteristically lets him down. It’s been a reasonably drab start, overall.
12 min: JR in Illinois is frothing –
“Have you re-watched what Jorginho did to Aguero in the first second of the game? It was not a ‘stray arm’ by Jorginho. It was a deliberate elbow aimed squarely at Aguero’s face. He didn’t make a clean connection, just a glancing blow, but it was as clear a red card offence as you’d want to see. And Moss was standing five feet away. Unbelievable.”
I’ll have to watch again at half-time. It would – and seemingly should – have been pretty much the quickest red card in history!
10 min: Fairly clear, now, that Chelsea are taking the conservative approach. But they cause a flutter now as a long switch from Emerson beats a badly positioned Laporte and almost sends Kante running clear. He is blocked off, legally, by Zinchenko but there were some brief howls of anguish from their fans.
8 min: The referee is Jonathan Moss, by the way. City keep pressing but Chelsea are offering up some spicy challenges and don’t look like giving up chances easily just now. Rudiger has stepped in well a couple of times already.
5 min: Yes, it’s a good start from City and now Aguero benefits from a ricochet and surges down the right, claiming a handball after a defender blocks his cross. Nothing is given.
3 min: City keeping the ball well early on. Has Sarri gone for the template that beat them in December?
1 min: Blimey – literally straight from kick-off Aguero tries to run past Jorginho and is sent flying by a stray arm. Looks very painful but he gets up, City take the free kick and then win an early corner …. which is cleared by Barkley.
Peeeeeep! Chelsea start us off!
The death of Sarriball or the birth of something beautiful?
It’s an interesting question, to be fair. I doubt if I can find the answers in the next four minutes, but if anyone has stats to hand then do whack them over.
The teams are striding out at Wembley right now – there’ll be meeting, greeting, pleasantries, anthems, and then we’ll be away!
Oh gosh, yes, and shame on me because I’m writing this a mere hop, skip, jump from Arsenal’s home. They beat Southampton 2-0 with early Lacazette and Mkhitaryan goals!
Joe Pearson writes: “Perversely, with respect to Europa League qualification, it doesn’t matter who wins this final (presuming the standings hold). If Chelsea wins, they qualify automatically. If City wins, the qualification falls to … Chelsea.”
That is true and a good point. The stakes for Chelsea and Sarri are even higher than that though, I think.
So does Pep, briefly!
“[The 6-0] was an incredibly important result for us but today is a final, a different competition, and hopefully we can play the game like a final deserves to be played.”
“We have played every three days [since the 6-0] so it’s difficult to work on the pitch. We have talked a lot to try and improve. Two months ago we played [City] and won with a match of very great application. We know we can do better and better.
“I cannot understand why you ask me [about his future] because you know very well I can only give my opinion. You have to ask the club.”
We were not regaled with his opinion.
“Chelsea playing the same frontline that beat City 2-0 late last year,” notes Neil Bailey, and he has a point. Strange game, that was, because Chelsea got a grip of it after reverting very much to Plan B – ceding possession, basically.
It finished goalless at Old Trafford, and was rather a slog. Half an hour til this one now …
The quality in United v Liverpool has been … lacking, shall we say. We’ll get better at Wembley, surely. Chelsea fans: right call to leave Higuain on the bench?
Don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s another game on at the moment. Simon Burnton will take you through the delicately-poised last knockings of Manchester United v Liverpool and then I’ll have much more from this one. Get your thoughts and predictions in to me, in the meantime!
Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, David Luiz, Emerson, Kanté, Jorginho, Barkley, Willian, Hazard, Pedro. Subs: Caballero, Christiansen, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Higuain.
Manchester City: Ederson, Zinchenko, Laporte, Otamendi, Walker, Fernandinho, Silva, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero. Subs: Muric, Danilo, Kompany, Gundogan, Sane, Mahrez, Foden.
Strong from City, with Ederson in goal rather than Muric, who would usually expect to play in this competition. Guardiola is clearly desperate for the win. No Hudson-Odoi from the start for Chelsea despite his goal against Malmo on Thursday, but Jorginho and Hazard are among those to return – and Barkley starts. Higuain is on the bench. Presumably we will see Hazard as false nine, which tends to work well against lesser teams but not against good ones.
The sun’s out in north London, Wembley looks resplendent, you’d almost think it is May. But this is the League Cup final, rather than the FA Cup final, and the storylines around this one might well keep us going until the latter. Manchester City will be gagging to tick off the first of a potential four trophies, and retain this one in the process, make no mistake about that. If they lose today then the chance to achieve something historic, if not massively likely, is gone. But for Chelsea there is something quite different at play.
Chelsea last won this competition four years ago and would love to again. Should they fall short then you’d fancy that Maurizio Sarri is done for; that Chelsea’s revamp is over before it really began and that an exhausting cycle of upheaval starts over again? It was a 6-0 defeat at City a mere fortnight ago that suggested the goose was cooked – anything close to that would surely seal the deal today although I, for one, suspect we’re in for something much chancier because that is how football tends to go.
Players want to win stuff, that’s the bottom line, and Chelsea’s team of seasoned internationals will be desperate to do that today. There’s no way City are six goals better than Chelsea on a normal day; this isn’t a normal day but it’s a cup final and that’s usually a great leveller. Will it be enough?
My view: whatever happens today you can’t ditch Sarri, because it was obvious *before they even got him in* that he wasn’t simply an instant-results guy, that this would take a year or two to develop and if they go away from that now then, under the current ownership, Chelsea are just going to confirm themselves as a basket case. Do what City did with Pep and let things grow over a quiet-ish first campaign! Has Sarri been hoist by the petard of such a fantastic start to the season, which even saw Chelsea being breathlessly suggested as title contenders in those early weeks? I think that, too. The football in recent weeks really hasn’t been good but he needs longer to get his own people, and ideas, in – not just Jorginho, whose new status as the fans’ fall guy seems entirely unreasonable and simply a deflection.
Anyway. Will today be the day it all turns for Chelsea and Sarri? Is this all just a jaunty diversion from the inevitable either way? Is it the start of something quiet fabulous for a City side who haven’t always reached last season’s heights? So much to ponder, so little time: we’re off, off and away at 4.30pm UK time. So get your thoughts in via email and/or Twitter right now!