FA Cup Semifinals: Prem Top 3 and Palace at Wembley

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Mohamed Salah of Liverpool (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images) /

It is that time of season again, the FA Cup semi-finals upon us. Over 700 clubs took part in the competition this season, and now just four remain. We turn our attentions to Wembley, one of world football’s most renowned and historic stadiums as four will become two at the conclusion of the Easter weekend. Here is a preview of the semi-finals.

Manchester City vs Liverpool (Saturday, 15:30 GMT, 16:30 CET)

For the second weekend running, the Premier League’s top two will go at it. Following the four-goal stalemate at the Etihad last Sunday, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp’s sides will reconvene in a winners take all situation. With both league meetings ending level, something will have to give on Saturday.

Aiming to reach their 15th FA Cup final, the Cityzens come into this one off the back of a hard fought Champions League tie on Wednesday. Despite the stalemate away to Atletico Madrid, it was enough for them to move on.

Unbeaten in their last 10 games, City has lost just once all calendar year, a 3-2 reverse to Spurs in mid-February the only setback through 16 games played in 2022. With a second domestic treble in recent years still a potential reality, do not be surprised if Guardiola puts out his strongest available eleven.

This is the second Premier League side City have faced in this campaign’s FA Cup, having dumped Southampton out in the previous round. Swindon Town of League Two, Fulham, and Peterborough, both from the Championship, have also felled at the hands of the six-time winners in the earlier rounds. Having lost in this very round in each of the last two seasons, the Cityzens will hope for a second FA Cup title in the last four.

Many parallels can also be drawn of Liverpool regarding their performances this calendar year. Also succumbing to defeat just once in 2022, this will be the Merseysiders’ 24th competitive match this year. Staying fresh for the last month and a half of the 2021/22 campaign could be quite the challenge.

A draw versus Benfica on Wednesday was also enough to see Liverpool through, having topped the Portuguese side in Lisbon the week prior. Remarkably, the seven-time cup champions are in the running for a domestic quadruple. Just a point behind City in the league along with the EFL Cup in the bag, the Reds will hope to do the quadruple, something that has only ever been done by Celtic back in the 1966/67 season.

The Merseyside-based club have reached the FA Cup final on 14 occasions, but not since 2012. Their last of their seven successful cup runs came in 2006, taking down West Ham on that occasion. Ousting Shrewsbury Town, Cardiff, Norwich and Nottingham Forest on their way to the semis, they are now in touching distance of a second Wembley final this year.

Cheslea vs Crystal Palace (Sunday, 16:30 GMT,17:30 CET)

The other semi-final will feature a London derby as Thomas Tuchel’s Blues will aim for another cup final appearance. Standing in their way is the only side remaining to have never hoisted the trophy. A solid Crystal Palace team will look to take their share of the spoils on Sunday.

It has been a rather blue spell for last May’s defeated finalists. While they got the better of Real Madrid in Tuesday night’s Champions League tie, it was not enough to continue their pursuit of defending the title, going out 5-4 on aggregate. Add that to a recent humiliation to Brentford in their latest all-London affair, a loss on penalties to Liverpool in the EFL Cup final this February, and their troubling administrative situation, cup success will be welcomed to soften the multiple blows of late.

Having won the cup the most out of the remaining teams, the Blues will have a chance at a fourth FA Cup final appearance in five seasons and their third straight. Defeats to Arsenal and Leicester in the last two years, finals at Wembley have not been kind to Tuchel’s men of late. That will have to change if they are to lift their third trophy of of the campaign.

This will be Chelsea’s first meeting with a top flight club in the FA Cup this season, having taken down Chesterfield, Plymouth Argyle, Luton Town, and Middlesbrough in the previous rounds.

Twice finalists, Crystal Palace are looking to go one better and be the title holders for the first time. Finding themselves in the top half of the league table on goal difference, it has been a more than solid campaign for The Eagles.

Last weekend’s loss to Leicester remains Palace’s only defeat in eight. Taking out Sunday’s setback at the King Power, the previous defeat for Patrick Vieira’s men came at the hands of their weekend opponents. Hakim Ziyech’s 89th minute goal was the only difference between the two in their most recent head-to-head. Keeping clean sheets against Arsenal and Man City since gives enough reason for optimism.

The road to the semi-finals for Palace saw them edge past Millwall, Hartlepool United and Stoke before hammering Everton 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Each of the four matches took place in London as well, meaning that Palace will have played all of their FA Cup ties this season in the capital.

The final for this season’s tournament will take place on 14 May. As always the winner of the FA Cup will enter the UEFA Europa League next campaign in the group stage. Seeing that City, Liverpool and Chelsea are all comfortably in the top 4, it is highly unlikely either of them will use the Europa League place awarded to the cup winner. This means that if Crystal Palace do not go all the way here, the Europa League place will be transferred to the sixth place team in the league.

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With this weekend’s matchups both looking quite promising regarding excitement, the thrill of the FA Cup will take centre stage. By the end of the weekend, we will be one step closer to finding out who will Leicester’s place at champions. Will there be a first-time winner for the second successive year? Only time will tell.