Friday, May 29, 2009

The FA Cup Final Preview: Chelsea vs. Everton

After 759 matches, some 3,023 goals and 759 teams eliminated, 2 teams stand at the cusp of FA Cup glory. The world's most famous cup competition started on 16 August 2008 will reach its climax on Saturday 30 May 2009. It is Chelsea versus Everton for the 128th instalment of the FA Cup competition.
image from Soccernet
Chelsea will want to win this trophy as consolation for a troubled season by their own high standards. John Terry and Frank Lampard have already signalled their intention to win this season's FA Cup as a tribute and parting gift to Russia and temporary Chelsea manager, Guus Hiddink.

Everton, on the other hand, are bidding to become only the second team, outside the Big 4, to lift the cup in the last 14 years. Portsmouth establish a new trend last season. We can only hope this year will also favour the underdogs.

Chelsea are the overwhelming favourites as they have the better players. Just to quote Steve McMahon, "if Chelsea plays to their potential and if Everton plays to their potential, then Chelsea will win it". If I were a betting man, I would put my house on a Chelsea win...but I am not, hence for romance and variety-sake, I will cheer for an Everton win and hope that Chelsea will have an off-day.

This is how the teams should line-up:
Probably line-up,
Chelsea (4-3-3)

Everton (4-4-1-1)

David Moyes will be banking on a solid performance from his defenders and midfielders. He has called this final "a pivotal moment" in Everton football club in the sense that winning the FA Cup will mean a significant breakthrough in his time at Everton. It will also prove to everyone that being voted League Manager of the Year, three years in a row by the LMA is no fluke.

Guus Hiddink will not want his farewell match to end in heartbreak. He has the tactics and the players to bring the cup back to The Bridge. Chelsea won the cup in 2007 beating Manchester United with a Drogba goal.

Let's now look at the match-ups that could take place on the pitch:
Cech-Terry-Cole VS. Saha-Fellaini
Cech has been a pale shadow of himself this season. From being a pillar of strength for Chelsea, he has been inconsistent producing great saves to howlers. On his day thought he is difficult to beat. However, the Chelsea central pairing looks slow and static. This is where Everton can capitalize. Saha and Fellaini, especially on set pieces, can make themselves a nuisance by hassling and hurrying both Alex and Terry into making mistakes.

Fellaini has evolved from a defensive midfielder into an attacking midfielder adept at holding up play, and allowing Cahill and Osman time to get into the box. Together with Cahill, Fellaini has been the two best players on the Everton team. David Moyes should be looking at both Cahill and Fellaini to get Everton ticking and competing on the pitch.

Bosingwa-Cole VS. Pienaar-Neville
Bosingwa and Ashley Cole loves to bomb forward at the slightest chance. Hiddink will not want to curb this natural instinct of the two players. Ashley Cole has 2 assists in the FA Cup and Bosingwa has scored 2 goals and 4 assists this season. This shows how dangerous both these overlapping fullbacks are.

Everton will need to stop these two players, Neville and Pienaar will have to work hard tracking back to help Baines and Hibbert. Since Mikel Arteta suffered the season-ending injury, Pienaar has taken over as the creative force in this Everton side. His runs and dribbles on the ball are hard to stop and with Everton particularly good at set-pieces, the fouls on Pienaar and the ensuing set-piece delivery may be the difference in what looks like a tight Cup final.

Ballack-Lampard-Essien VS. Osman-Cahill-Fellaini
Whatever midfield that Chelsea may field, whether it be Mikel, Ballack, Lampard, Essien, Belletti, it is a world class lineup. Everton's Osman, Cahill and Fellaini will have to work hard and scrap for every ball in the middle of the park.

Lampard holds the key in this midfield battle. He has been excellent this whole season. His passing, leadership and goalscoring will be needed. There is no specific weakness in this Chelsea midfield. Chelsea midfielders are just as comfortably passing the ball as they are in doing the hard running, tough tackling but. They are all complete midfielders, able to do a bit of everything.

Osman, Cahill and Fellaini have their work cut out for them. Keeping the ball away from the Chelsea midfield trio may be the best option for Everton. Everton must try to spread play a little more, using the width of Wembley to their advantage. Pinging the ball left and right should disrupt the Chelsea midfield and keep them off-balance.

Malouda-Anelka-Drogba VS. Howard-Hibbert-Yobo-Lescott-Baines
The Chelsea trio are in fine form going into this match. Drogba have been rejuvenated during Hiddink's time in Chelsea. He now looks like the imposing physical power of old. Hiddink has successfully implemented a system where all three can play together which did not look a possibility when Scolari was in charge.

But this Everton back four had let in just three goals in this FA Cup campaign, and that's no mean feat considering that they were up against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester United. Tim Howard's heroics against United in the semifinal continue to underline his solid goalkeeping abilities as one of the top 6 goalkeepers in the Premier League.

Anelka is the top scorer in this season's FA Cup campaign with 4 goals. He will be looking to fire the goals to add the FA Cup to his trophy cabinet, having already taken the EPL Golden Boot award.

Everton's defence is quick, physical and strong in the air. It should be the perfect counterfoil for the intimidating Chelsea attacking trio. A great battle is in store.

Guus Hiddink VS. David Moyes
Guus Hiddink will know that David Moyes' Everton will be set up to fight and compete first before settling down to play football. Therefore, he will demand Chelsea to do the same. In spite of the abundance of skills, this Chelsea team knows how to play ugly football as well.

David Moyes will thrive on discipline and organisation. He will have a game plan to try to nullify the Chelsea midfield. Set-piece execution must have been the area that his team worked on during the week in preparation for today's final.

Evertonians are ready. They sense that this is the moment for a rare but glorious trophy season.
Chelsea fans are expecting silverware after a rollercoaster season.

Prediction? 2-0 to the Toffeemen.
Enjoy the game!
Find out also what has happened to the Chelsea FA Cup winning team of 1997.


Anonymous said...

omg, stupid blogger, a 2-0 score if u predict a 1-0 score to the toffee than u are quite reasonable.

omg, a good blog but a stupid dumb blogger

TheFlatBackFour said...

Thanks for visiting my site and please come back more often.
The beauty of a prediction obviously is exactly that, it's a prediction...I love favouring the underdogs and I dislike Chelsea.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TheFlatBackFour said...

If you were to read again, you will find that I also wrote,
"...Chelsea are the overwhelming favourites as they have the better players..."
Logically I have said that Chelsea would win it...thanks for your comment!

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