England on the ball for FA Cup

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The Football Association Challenge Cup, better known as the FA Cup, is the oldest association soccer competition in the world. Starting in England in 1871, the competition has produced moments etched in the fabric of English football history. But with greener pastures like the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League to fight for, the top teams in England usually don’t seem to take the competition too seriously.

Fielding second string sides, a lot of teams fall prey to lower league opposition and are added to the list of FA Cup upsets. This year however, it seems to be a very different ball game! For the first time in quite a few years, four of the top six teams in the English Premier League have made it to the FA Cup semifinals, with three hailing from London.

In semifinals, Chelsea will play the Tottenham Hotspurs and Manchester City will play Arsenal. Chelsea is in the form of their lives under new manager Antonio Conte. Having lead the Premier League since the end of 2016, the Blues carried over their good form into the FA Cup to oust Manchester United 1-0 in the quarterfinals. Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante’s goal was enough to leave the Red Devils and Chelsea’s former manager Jose Mourinho behind. But they are by no means guaranteed a win when they take on Tottenham, who lie second in the league.

Tottenham’s season has been a mixed one. Having failed miserably in Europe, the North London team seems to be doing a really good job on English soil. Tottenham beat Millwall 6-0 in the quarterfinals while resting a lot of their regular starters, showing they have the strength and depth to go all the way. This London Derby is shaping up to be a cracker of a match. This brings me to the issue of the second semifinal. It is a game where both teams are in dire need of a win.

When Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City and won his first six games in the Premier League, it seemed like he had brought with him the magic that saw him succeed at Barcelona. But it has all been downhill from there, a slow and painful decline. Sitting in third place in the league, City is 12 points behind leader Chelsea and chances to mount a challenge for the title seem slim.

An unexpected elimination from the Champions League earlier in March from the hands of Monaco has forced Guardiola to put all his eggs in one basket: the FA Cup. A ticket to the final will make the season look like less of a debacle and if they manage to win it, nothing like it! Of the four teams, Arsenal is the one in the worst state. After a great start to the season, the club is just crumbling all around.

The manager, Arsene Wenger, has had one too many seasons where the team fails miserably in the dying months of the season and the fans have had enough. There are protests outside the stadium every game for a change in management and a win against Manchester City in the semifinals will go a long way in easing the pressure. All said and done, Arsenal is still sixth in the Premier League and has a plethora of talented players in their lineup. Expect this one to go to the edge! So there we have it. Four of the top teams in English football battling it out for the oldest prize in the football history. This one’s gonna be a scorcher!