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2018 FA Cup Final
FA Cup Final 2018: Chelsea vs Manchester United
We now know the finalists of this year’s FA Cup, with Manchester United meeting Chelsea at Wembley on 19th May. It means another meeting between Mourinho and Conte, who have had an all too public war of words this season which has, at times, been extremely personal. In terms of their on-pitch battles, both managers have come out on top once during the league campaign, so as well as the silverware on offer, this is a last chance to get the final word in a huge personal rivalry.
For both sides, the competition is their last chance of winning a trophy this season and transforming their season from mediocre to meritorious. Chelsea have disappointed in the league this season and are set to miss out on Champions League football for the second time in three years. The future looks bleak for Antonio Conte, who is walking the managerial tightrope and seems certain to leave the club in the summer. It’s been a much more successful season for United, who should finish the season in 2nd place in the table - their best finish since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club. Winning the FA Cup would vindicate the money spent by Mourinho and the board at Old Trafford since the Portuguese arrived at the club.
The History of the FA Cup
The FA Cup is the oldest cup competition in football across the entire world, and so while perhaps winning the trophy doesn’t hold the same importance to the bigger clubs as it did in years gone by, it remains a trophy that is highly sought by players, managers and especially the fans.
Since the first final all the way back in 1872, there have been 43 different winners of England’s premier domestic cup competition, with Arsenal the most successful side in the competition’s history, having won the cup 13 times including three times in the last four years. During that time they overtook Manchester United, who have won 12 FA Cup wins themselves. Their last victory came in 2016, and the Red Devils will be seeking to equal Arsenal at the top of the standings once more with a triumph this year.
Chelsea didn’t win their first FA Cup final until 1970 but have gone on to record seven separate victories including four cup wins in a six-year spell during the mid- to late-2000s. Conte lost in the final with the Blues last season and has generally struggled in domestic cup competitions despite a successful career as a head coach.
There have been some truly fantastic finals in the competition’s history, ranging from the first televised final in 1953, which Blackpool won by 4 goals to 3 in a classic match dominated by the late great Stanley Matthews, to the ding-dong battle between Liverpool and West Ham in 2006, where Stephen Gerrard scored an epic last-minute thunderbolt to take a classic game to a 3-3 draw, extra time and eventually penalties.
Liverpool have been on the wrong end of a few classics as well, most notably when the ‘Crazy Gang’ of Wimbledon shocked the world with a win against the odds in 1988. Perhaps the greatest final was just a year previous to that when Coventry beat Tottenham 3-2 after extra time in a final made great both by the victory for the underdog as well as the style of football on display.
The Road to the Final
The FA Cup is a truly romantic cup competition, with every single side in the country given the ability, no matter how small, to compete in the tournament and potentially even win it. The competition is famous for its ‘giant killings’ with small sides from outside of the football league arriving in the first few ‘proper’ rounds of the tournament, and getting their chance to show the country and the world what they can do against highly paid professional players.
The Premier League and Championship teams enter in the third round, and many of them went straight at that stage as well. Mark Hughes lost his job when his Stoke team were humiliated by Coventry of League One. Leeds were knocked out by League Two Newport, while the biggest shock of the round came from Nottingham Forest who knocked holders Arsenal out of the competition at the first hurdle.
Perhaps the biggest story of the competition so far, though, was Wigan, who strung together a series of sensational wins in reaching the quarterfinals before losing to Southampton. Wigan, plying their trade in League One, beat Bournemouth, West Ham and, most amazingly, champions Manchester City in an incredible campaign, which epitomises what is truly great about the competition.
In comparison, the road to the final for our two finalists has been quite dull and predictable.
Manchester United couldn’t have hoped for a safer passage through, at least until the semifinals. They comfortably negotiated ties with Derby, Yeovil, Huddersfield and Brighton without conceding a single goal, scoring 10 times in the process. In their semi-final at Wembley, United came back from behind to win 2-1 against Spurs thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera.
Chelsea’s road was similarly smooth for the most part, although they could easily have fallen in their very first tie. After drawing 1-1 at Carrow Road against Norwich, Chelsea couldn’t break down the Canaries at Stamford Bridge, only winning the game thanks to a penalty shootout. After that lucky escape, Chelsea haven’t looked back, thumping Newcastle and Hull City in the fourth and fifth rounds. They battled past a resolute Leicester side in the sixth round after extra time, before a regulation win over surprise semi-finalists Southampton at Wembley.
For both, there is one more match to come through as they seek to make history, and in a battle between two of the best and most tactically astute teams in the country, this year’s final looks likely to be tight and tense all the way.
FA Cup Final Betting Tips
It’s no surprise that the bookies are finding it difficult to split these teams, with the two sides evenly matched in all positions, and with both sides having won a game apiece in their league meetings both this season and last year. Chelsea have struggled in the league this season, but have shown some promising form in recent weeks as they approach a second consecutive cup final.
This is a competition that Mourinho has surprisingly only won once, despite all of his other success in England with United and Chelsea. Cup competitions haven’t been kind to his Chelsea counterpart, with Antonio Conte amazingly having never won a major cup competition despite having won league titles in his previous four seasons as a manager.
Perhaps United have the edge in this game, having had the superior season, and with Mourinho having been a serial winner of cup finals, if not in the FA Cup itself, compared to his opponent in the opposition dugout.
United to lift the trophy could be a decent bet, therefore, at a current best price of 1.83.
Considering how closely matched the sides have been, and given the likely tactical nature of the game as well as cup finals in general, a tight scoreline seems highly probable. In fact, only once since 2004 has an FA Cup final been settled by a margin of more than one goal, so Man United to win the final by 1 goal at a price of 3/1 seems a fair bit of value as well, while a winning margin of a single goal at 2.2 could also represent a savvy bet.
A draw in regular time looks another decent possibility, so United to win after extra time or on penalties, both of which are priced at 10/1, could be worth considering if looking for longer prices. The prices for Chelsea to do likewise are around the same at present if you think Chelsea are more likely to come through and get the win.
Whether you think Mourinho will add another title to his bulging trophy cabinet or Antonio Conte can finish his Chelsea career in style with a first cup win, make sure to take advantage of the best offers from our top football bookmakers.