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Sports News of Saturday, 15 May 2021


Iheanacho, Ndidi eye FA cup in Chelsea, Leicester clash

Iheanacho, and Ndidi Iheanacho, and Ndidi

Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho have the potential to become the eighth Nigerian players to win the prestigious tournament based on the results of this match

Leicester step foot onto the Wembley turf for a cup final for the first time since 2000

Leicester City will be craving for a fourth English FA Cup win after the Foxes last won it in 1956 as they take on Chelsea today at the Wembley Stadium in England. Interestingly, Nigeria’s interest will be highly represented in today’s clash as the Super Eagles duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho would be hoping to become the eighth Nigerian players to win the prestigious tournament

The FA Cup will be draped in blue by the close of play today, as Leicester City and Chelsea battle it out for the chance to lift the prestigious trophy in front of 21,000 Wembley spectators.

The Foxes will be taking part in their fifth final as they search for their maiden FA Cup crown, while today’s game represents Chelsea’s 15th appearance in the showpiece event as they seek a ninth triumph.

Brendan Rodger’s men dumped Southampton out in the semi-finals to make plans for today, while Thomas Tuchel’s side ended Manchester City’s quadruple dream in the final four to book their spot in the 140th FA Cup final.

It only seemed fitting to witness the rejuvenated Kelechi Iheanacho score the goal which propelled the Foxes into their first FA Cup final since 1969, as this season’s top scorer in the tournament struck with 55 minutes on the clock to extinguish Southampton’s trophy hopes.

The meteoric rise of the Foxes over the past 10 years has led to the most unlikely of Premier League title wins, but that is the only piece of silverware that they have to show for their reincarnation so far, and there is the belief that Rodgers could be the man to fill the cabinet again.

It has been a long and arduous journey for Leicester to book their spot in the FA Cup final for the first time in 52 years, with the Foxes losing 1-0 to Manchester City all the way back in 1969, and not one of their previous three final appearances before that ended in triumph.

Expected wins over Stoke City, Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion preceded a pulsating 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the quarter-finals for Leicester, who did not rest on their laurels against a declining Southampton outfit in front of a handful of fans at Wembley.

Now aiming to channel the spirits of the 1960s finalists, Leicester head into today’s showpiece event following a crucial win in the top flight, as goals from Luke Thomas and Caglar Soyuncu either side of Mason Greenwood’s equaliser saw them prevail 2-1 against a second-string Manchester United XI.

The Foxes’ top-four destiny is therefore still in their own hands as they bid to return to the pinnacle of European football, but they must quickly renew hostilities with Chelsea three days after their FA Cup final battle, while a final-day meeting with Tottenham Hotspur is hardly a straightforward task.

Premier League fortunes take a backseat for now, though, as Leicester step foot onto the Wembley turf for a cup final for the first time since 2000, where two strikes from Matt Elliott saw them defeat Tranmere 2-1 in the 1999-2000 EFL Cup final.

Leicester’s record at the home of English football does not exactly make for positive reading, though, as they have lost 10 of their previous 15 matches at Wembley – winning four and drawing one – but they at least make the journey to the capital having prevailed in four of their last six games in all competitions.

A slice of personal history is also on the line for former Celtic boss Rodgers – a two-time Scottish Cup winner with the Bhoys – who will now hope to become just the second-ever manager to win both the English and Scottish FA Cups, following in the footsteps of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson himself.

Standing in Leicester’s way are Thomas Tuchel’s dogged and determined Chelsea outfit, who have been transformed under the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss as they continue to fight for success on domestic and continental fronts.

The Blues are also going head-to-head with Leicester for a spot in the top four as the Premier League season heads for its final straight, but having come so close yet so far under Frank Lampard in last year’s FA Cup, Tuchel needs no added incentive to get the job done this week.

In doing so, the German boss would follow a similar path to that of Mikel Arteta – who took over at Arsenal halfway through the season and led them to FA Cup glory last year – and it was the Gunners boss who got the better of Tuchel in Wednesday’s London derby.

In a turn of events that Arsenal fans have become accustomed to seeing from their own team, Jorginho was forced into making a mistake and so nearly turned the ball into his own net had it not been for the heroics of Kepa Arrizabalaga, but Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang was on hand to set up Emile Smith Rowe for the game’s only goal in the 16th minute.

Chelsea huffed and puffed but just could not find a way past an inspired Arsenal defence at Stamford Bridge – where they had only previously conceded to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League under Tuchel – and a momentum-killing defeat is not what Chelsea needed before their 15th FA Cup final.
Lampard oversaw routine wins over Morecambe and Luton Town before being relieved of his duties, while Tuchel has witnessed his side dump Barnsley, Sheffield United and the former quadruple-chasers Manchester City out of the tournament, with Hakim Ziyech netting the only goal of the game against the latter.

While the trigger-happy Chelsea board are renowned for chopping and changing the Blues’ managers, one thing has been consistent with all of them – their penchant for cup finals. Indeed, Chelsea has now reached the showpiece event of a competition for the fifth year running, and there is the small matter of a Champions League final to come later this month.

Chelsea were the masters of their own downfall against Arsenal, but they are yet to concede under Tuchel in this year’s FA Cup and had strung a seven-game unbeaten run together before Wednesday’s defeat, while their ridiculous squad depth means that Tuchel has plenty of options for change ahead of the final.

Not since Newcastle United in 1998 and 1999 has a team lost back-to-back FA Cup finals, and while Chelsea may have their eyes on the ultimate prize in the form of the Champions League, lifting the prestigious FA Cup with fans present is enough motivation for any team to end the strangest of seasons with a flourish.

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