Chelsea have quite a lot to look forward to in May. The thing undoubtedly at the top of their list is their 2012 Champions League final showdown with Bayern Munich, but they’re also pushing for a fourth-place Premier League finish (although that may be out of their hands now after losing to two splendid goals by Cisse on Wendesday night. And before that monumental match in Munich, the Blues have another cup final to contend with, as are set to take on Liverpool in the 2012 FA Cup Final this Saturday.
Liverpool likely can’t wait for their Premier League campaign to end, as it has been severely disappointing. But if they can add the FA Cup to the Carling Cup trophy they collected in February, the season can’t be looked at as a total failure.
So which one of these sides will be celebrating at Wembley next weekend? Here are a few reasons why each side should feel confident:
1. Juan Mata: In his first season in England, the Spanish sensation has been a star performer. To date, he’s had a hand in almost 30 Chelsea goals in all competitions. In the FA Cup, he’s either scored or assisted on at least one goal in five of Chelsea’s six ties. If he replicates his stat line from the semi against Tottenham – with a less controversial goal this time- Kenny Dalglish will see up close just what he missed out on last summer.
2. Fernando Torres: Perhaps his tie-clinching goal against Barcelona will spark a strong finish to the season. Perhaps it won’t. But El Nino has had made several notable contributions in the Champions League and FA Cup as both a scorer and a provider, scoring five goals and assisting on eight more. He’s far from a guarantee to start the final, but whether he plays 10 minutes or 90, he could be Chelsea’s match-winner.
3. Sky-high confidence: Good form and positive results in big games help breed confidence. While Chelsea haven’t been stellar every match under Roberto Di Matteo, they’re producing far more under him than they were under Andre Villas-Boas. What does that mean for the future? Who knows (perhaps Roman Abramovich does), but in the present, the Blues are clearly high on belief. And belief, as they showed against Barcelona, can take you a long, long way.
1. Recent success against Chelsea: Chelsea have the edge in quality, but Liverpool have the recent head-to-head edge. Liverpool have won the last four meetings between the two sides, including a league win and a Carling Cup quarterfinal win, both at Stamford Bridge, this season. Chelsea are in better form than at the time of those two November defeats, but that won’t dent Liverpool’s confidence in being able to down the Blues yet again.
2. Misfiring stars have stepped up in the Cup: Andy Carroll has only four goals in more than 30 Premier League appearances this season, but he’s scored three in five in the FA Cup, including a dramatic late semifinal winner against Everton. Stewart Downing has yet to record a goal or assist in the league, but he’s scored twice and notched an assist in the FA Cup. Luis Suarez‘s league tally is underwhelming, but he’s scored in each of his three FA Cup appearances. Suarez must show up against Chelsea, but a contribution from one or both of the other two could be equally important.
3. Steven Gerrard: Injuries have hampered Gerrard the last couple of seasons, and Father Time also isn‘t on his side. But he should be fit for Wembley, and his presence alone in such a big game is a plus for Liverpool. But while his memorable moments aren’t as frequent as they once were, he can still produce them from time to time. His performance in a classic 2006 final against West Ham will always be remembered, but this one could well be too.
Chelsea v Liverpool: Who’s your pick for winning the 2012 FA Cup final?