By FOX SPORTS staff
Chelsea and Manchester City have had to endure relatively disappointing league campaigns and will be eager to finish the season on a high by lifting the FA Cup.
The tournament holds a special place in the heart of Roberto Mancini, being the first trophy he lifted as City manager while Rafael Benitez would like to end his stormy tenure by bringing some silverware to Stamford Bridge and continue Chelsea’s recent domination of the competition.
Predicted Starting XIs:
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand, Mikel, Ramires, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Yaya Toure, Barry, Milner, Nasri, Aguero, Tevez.
Demba Ba vs Vincent Kompany
City skipper Kompany marshalled his team-mates impressively in the recent Manchester derby, reducing the likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie to virtual bystanders for most of the game.
Mancini will look to the Belgian and team-mate Matija Nastasic to do the same against Ba and Chelsea’s array of attacking midfielders. Although Ba has not been as prolific in front of goal for the Blues as he used to be for Newcastle, the 27-year old’s industry on the pitch should see him find space in dangerous positions and put himself in line to fire his team to victory.
Eden Hazard vs Pablo Zabaleta
As dependable as Kompany, Zabaleta has managed to link up with the team’s attackers on a regular basis despite tirelessly patrolling the right side of defence. However, the Argentinean might be slightly wary of going on his usual overlapping runs, with Hazard likely to start down his flank in the upcoming clash.
The former Lille man could take a leaf out of Zabaleta’s page when it comes to performing consistently, but Hazard’s ability to turn the game in an instant still makes him one of the biggest threats to Joe Hart’s goal.
David Luiz & Branislav Ivanovic vs Sergio Aguero & Carlos Tevez
Although Aguero has yet to achieve full fitness, his impressive winner against Manchester United demonstrated that he has lost none of his instinct and technique, which should prompt Mancini to start him alongside compatriot Tevez.
Luiz and Ivanovic have been impressive enough in the heart of the Chelsea defence to keep skipper John Terry out of the starting line-up, but they will have their work cut out for them when faced with City’s Argentinean strike duo. Both Luiz and Ivanovic must demonstrate tactical discipline in the upcoming game in order to prevent Aguero or Tevez from breaking through.
Juan Mata vs Gareth Barry
One need only look at the Premier League assists table to grasp the importance of the role played by Mata. The Spaniard stands on top of the pile and City must starve him of possession if they are to emerge victorious in this semi-final.
With Yaya Toure likely to be tasked with bridging the link between defence and attack, Barry will shoulder the responsibility of hustling Mata when the former Valencia man gets on the ball. If the England international succeeds in reducing Mata's influence on the game, his more attack-minded team-mates can be counted on to do damage to Chelsea’s cup ambitions.