LONDON: Chelsea and Arsenal, the two most successful clubs in the FA Cup this century, go head-to-head on Saturday for the trophy, a chance for both to end the domestic season on a high.
Each side have won the Cup six times since 2000, with Arsenal picking up the trophy in three of the past six years.
The Gunners have won the competition a record 13 times, with Chelsea’s eight putting them third behind Manchester United.
The pressure is arguably more on the shoulders of Arsenal, who must win behind closed doors to secure Europa League football next season.
Chelsea, who already qualified for the next edition of the Champions League by finishing fourth in the Premier League, are also still in this season’s Champions League, which finishes next month.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta knows that his team under-performed in the Premier League, where they finished eighth. Beating Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday would ease the pain, but only a little.
“For me this club deserves the best and you have to be fighting for every title,” Arteta said.
“Obviously after everything that happened, if we are able to win the final and qualify for Europe, we can say it’s OK. But it’s not the level for this football club.”
Arteta will be without defender Shkodran Mustafi through injury while Gabriel Martinelli is also out.
For Chelsea, manager Frank Lampard faces a dilemma as to whether to pick midfielder Willian, with the Brazilian heavily linked with a move to Arsenal this window.
Lampard is hopeful that midfielder N’Golo Kante will be fit after returning to training last week following injury, while Olivier Giroud is likely to lead the attack against his former side.
The Frenchman has won four FA Cups, three with Arsenal and one with Chelsea and is hoping to repeat his performance of last year, when he scored as the Blues beat Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final.
“I have a nice record at Wembley in the FA Cup, so will try one more time to be the lucky charm,” Giroud said recently.
“I have been lucky to win four FA Cups and, hopefully, this is going to be the fifth one.
“It is going to be special one more time, like last year in the Europa League Final.”
Lampard this week singled out captain Cesar Azpilcueta.
“His level of performance and impact on the group as captain, I can’t understate it,” Lampard said. “It has been amazing.
“His performances for a huge part of the season, his attitude, his application every single day. It is an absolute standard for any young player.”
One piece of good news for Arsenal is that goalkeeper Bernd Leno is back in training, having suffered a knee injury in June.
But Emi Martinez, who impressed in his absence, will start the final against Chelsea.
Defender Hector Bellerin will be fit for the final, though, after he was rested for last weekend’s 3-2 win over Watford on the final day of the Premier League season. – dpa