The World Cup may be just around the corner but first, there’s the little matter of the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester United to whet your appetite.
The season may not have gone to plan for either side. However, the FA Cup represents a tangible symbol of success that both Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho will be desperate for.
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
When was that David de Gea or Thibaut Courtois debate again? Yes, Courtois is, without doubt, a top keeper but his omission is a by-product of Chelsea’s poor campaign. De Gea’s comfortably been the Premier League’s if not Europe’s best for years now. His place in this side isn’t even up for consideration.
Right Back: Cesar Azpilicueta
Cesar Azpicilicueta or ‘Dave’ as Chelsea players and fans have dubbed him has played in almost every defensive position over the last two years. However, right back’s where he made his name and where he can do the most damage. The Spaniard’s been sound defensively but this season his improved assist rate has increased his all-round influence.
Centre Back: Eric Baily
Mourinho’s admitted that Baily’s exclusion from the United side is down to Ivory Coast not making the World Cup. Smalling and Jones might’ve made cases for themselves but an in-form Baily is still the main man.
Centre Back: Phil Jones
Last year Gareth Southgate said Phil Jones is England’s best defender. He’s always had something special ever since his Blackburn days. Injuries have meant him missing 36 games over the last two seasons. However, he remains the Man United manager’s call upon when the pressure is on.
Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen could be considered more naturally gifted but still need to prove themselves for at least one more year.
Left Back: Marcos Alonso
Marcos Alonso was pivotal in Chelsea’s title run last season. Flying up and down the left wing with license to thrill. This campaign there’s only seen glimpses of that form combined with some sublime free-kicks.
However, with Mourinho choosing to experiment with his left back position, Alonso has been a constant in the Chelsea team.
Midfield: Nemanja Matic
When Antonio Conte gave Nemanja Matic’s move to the Red Devils the go-ahead it left everyone slightly bemused. Since the Serbian’s return to Stamford Bridge in 2014 he’s become one of the best defensive midfielders in the game. Mourinho knew he’d be key to his success at Old Trafford. Matic was the signing of the season and remains a crucial part of the side.
Midfield: N’golo Kante
A defensive midfield duo of Kante and Matic is a story of what could’ve been for Chelsea. The little and large combination at the base of midfield will provide the no-nonsense backdrop for the attacking cast to showcase their talent.
Right midfield: Willian
Both Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard deserved notable mentions here. The United duo love a Wembley goal. However, Willian has always been a threat in tandem with Eden Hazard. And always one of the first names on the team-sheet when available. It’s no different here…
Attacking midfield: Paul Pogba
This formation is built for a player like Paul Pogba. He played his best football in a three-man midfield at Juventus but still wants to be at the creative hub. Pogba has the ability to move through gears effortlessly and will have the quality around him to shine. No pressure Paul…
Left midfield: Eden Hazard
Hazard hasn’t been at his marauding best this campaign. But neither have his club. The ‘second’ season syndrome is becoming habitual for Chelsea managers. However, the winger is still the West Londoners’ star turn. When Chelsea win he’s usually instrumental. United may have a larger pool of wingers to choose from but none are arguably as decisive as the Belgian.
Centre forward: Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku has plundered 16 Premier League goals for United this season. He surely would’ve reached nearer the 20-goal mark if injury hadn’t ruled him out of the final three games.
Nonetheless, Lukaku has shown he is now ready to be the focal point of a title-chasing side.
Even if he isn’t fully-fit on Saturday the Belgian will ensure he’s on the pitch. The 25-year-old was bought for games like these and will want his big moment in the sun.
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