Can the Lilywhites break their semifinal jinx or will the Blues ensure yet another heartbreak?
The Premier League’s top two sides, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, will collide in an epic FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
It’s going to be an emotionally charged-up London Derby, as Chelsea announced this week that John Terry will be leaving the club at the end of the season after being a wonderful servant for 22 years.
And then truly tragic news came from Spurs, as the club announced that former player and current youth-team manager, Ugo Eihiogu passed away on Friday, just 44 years of age.
While the news does not of course equate to the other, the fact remains that the sides will be charged up and eager to get the win at Wembley and it really is too close to call at this point.
Antonio Conte knows his team are one loss from a remarkable late-season meltdown and he will be desperate to avoid a damaging defeat at Wembley. Only a few weeks ago the Blues were on their way to win the league but losses to Crystal Palace and Manchester United have well and truly rocked the boat?
What’s going wrong? For starters, Diego Costa isn't scoring anymore. The snarling Spaniard is a fine striker and while Conte may publicly defend him all he wants, you need your striker to score if you wish to win matches. The burden is increasingly falling on Eden Hazard’s shoulders and while the Belgian winger has arguably been the finest player in England this season, he alone cannot decide the outcome of every game.
The other reason for their alarming slump has been their erstwhile watertight defence which has been leaking goals, in fact they have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight games.
So while Thibaut Coirtois will be touch and go for Saturday, Chelsea have been handed a major boost as Marcos Alonso is expected to shrug off an illness to start on the left flank.
What they are saying: ‘I’m sure they believe they can beat us. We believe we can beat them. It’s on the day. Psychologically football can be affected by results sometimes, but I believe every time we have had a bad result this year we bounced back very quickly and that says a lot about the team. Hopefully we can do the same and play a good game on Saturday,” Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas (as per www.chelseafc.com)
Injury doubts: Thibaut Courtois (Ankle), Marcos Alonso (Illness)
Suspension Alert: None
There seems to be no stopping Tottenham at the moment, flying high in the league and woe betide any who come across them.
Their young squad has been doing wonders in each game and as their front four is absolutely terrifying for opposing defenders. Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane make Spurs a fast, free-flowing side that can’t stop scoring at the moment. There isn't just one player you can mark out of the game, which makes them even more dangerous.
Are there any weaknesses? Well, well with Danny Rose injured, Ben Davies has been deputising at left-back and his obvious lack of pace does make him a potential weak link but apart from that, Mauricio Pochettino’s men look rock-solid.
A point for caution, however, is that Chelsea’s grizzled squad will look to rile up the Spurs players any chance they get and avoiding a reaction will be key if they are to progress to the finals.
What they are saying: “It’s nice to say we are ready and we want to win but it’s not an easy task, it’s so difficult to win trophies. We will play against one of the best teams in Europe with a great manager, great players, players that have won European competitions and World Cups,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino (as per www.tottenhamhotspur.com).
Injury absentees: Erik Lamela (Hip), Danny Rose (Knee), Harry Winks (Ankle)
Suspension Alert: None