FA CUP SEMI-FINAL: FOUR CLUBS, ONE TROPHY – WHO NEEDS IT THE MOST?
The FA Cup has once again answered those who claim it has lost its lustre and magic – one look at the semi-final line-up is the reply to the cynics.
Southampton take on the role of underdogs while three of the Premier League’s genuine superpowers will be fighting it out for their only chance of silverware this season.
The FA Cup has assumed massive significance for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and his counterparts from Manchester United and Tottenham, Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino.
And for Southampton manager Mark Hughes, at Wembley after one match in charge having succeeded sacked Mauricio Pellegrino, it presents an unlikely route to success this season after his sacking at Stoke. It is a competition he won four times as a player with Manchester United and Chelsea.
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Conte will want victory to make amends for last season’s final defeat by Arsenal that denied him a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at Stamford Bridge. It could also prove to be the perfect farewell with the growing expectation that the Italian will leave Chelsea at the end of the season.
Mourinho, that serial accumulator of trophies, will now be eyeing the FA Cup as his response to those who have criticised him and Manchester United’s sterile football this season, especially after the timid exit to Sevilla at the last-16 stage of the Champions League.
He and United face a tough task against Spurs – who have already beaten them comfortably at Wembley in the Premier League this season – but he will relish the opportunity to prove once more that when the big occasion arrives he can plot the big result.
The manager who arguably has the most riding on the FA Cup is Spurs boss Pochettino, who will want the trophy as tangible evidence of the very obvious progress he has made in building an attractive, emerging side.
Spurs’ disappointing Champions League loss to Juventus once again posed the question of just how highly Pochettino and his team can be regarded until they have a trophy to their name.
The FA Cup presents a perfect opportunity to put that right – but all four managers and clubs who will fight it out at Wembley on semi-final weekend have compelling reasons for wanting to win the famous old trophy.
FA Cup semi-final draw
Manchester United v Tottenham
Chelsea v Southampton