Manchester United and Chelsea will face each other on Saturday, in an FA Cup final that will be very important for both sides. Jose Mourinho wants to continue bringing silverware after doing so twice last year and Antonio Conte will want to make amends for the loss to Arsenal last season that cost them winning the Double.
However, we are here to talk about things regarding the pitch itself. Here the three key things that could decide the outcome of the match.
The Central Midfield Battle
This will be one of the key talking points before the match. Nemanja Matic moved last summer from Chelsea to Man United and he instantly made both teams look different. United were improved, as he brought stability and balance to Mourinho’s side, while the Blues lost both a formidable midfielder and options in a long season with Champions League football.
It will be interesting to see how will Matic, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba do against Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and possibly Tiemoue Bakayoko. It was the latter of the three that was brought in to replace Matic, but his season has been a very disappointing one. If Manchester United manage to get past Kante, things will be much easier. Also, stopping Cesc from dictating tempo will be of huge importance and Pogba could harm him with his physicality and speed, as the Spaniard is known for not being as able defensively.
Stopping Eden Hazard
When you stop Eden Hazard, things tend to become much easier. Yes, Olivier Giroud can be very dangerous and yes, Willian proved in the last match against United how good he is when in-form. Yet it is the Belgian that can bring the most to his team. That is why Mourinho will pay special attention to Hazard. After all, he knows him all too well from his days in London and special tasks could be given to Antonio Valencia and the chosen centre-backs.
Hazard had a hand in 22 goals in Premier League and Champions League this term, but his inspiration on the day could be much worse than any statistic. His dribbling unsettles the biggest teams and United should be aware of that. In the league, Hazard has been completing 5.1 dribbles per 90, in a time when everything higher than 2.5 is considered great.
The Romelu Lukaku Effect
Manchester United will be putting a lot of faith in another Belgian. Mourinho said they will wait “until the very last minute” to see if the Belgian international can feature upfront, but if he can play, than he is potentially the one to decide the final. His presence on the pitch makes United look much more dangerous and we have seen that when he got injured recently.
He is the only real focal point in this Man United side and Rashford and Alexis Sanchez can bring very different things. However, real physical battles come only from Lukaku whose 26 goals in all competitions say a lot about his season.