The final of the English FA Cup, the oldest cup competition in the world, will take place tomorrow at the hallowed turf of Wembley in London. This year’s edition will feature bitter rivals Arsenal & Chelsea, two teams from the capital.
Arsene Wenger is one win away from history in the competition as a victory for Arsenal tomorrow will make him the first manager in the history of English football to win seven FA Cups (same amount as Chelsea football club), however, standing in his way will be the wily Italian, Antonio Conte and his fantastic Chelsea team, who will be looking to complete the double after winning the EPL title last week. A lot will be hinging on the outcome of this match for Arsenal, as a win will see them salvage something from an already underwhelming season and also likely help in determining the continuation of Arsene Wenger at the helm. The Gunners failed to make the Champions League for the first time in 20 years and there have been calls for Wenger’s exit by some section of the fans, they have even twice flown banners to that purpose this season.
Despite Antonio Conte insisting that Arsenal would start as favourites, observers of both teams will know that the reverse will be the case. It is true that the Gunners are in a rich vein of form with five wins from their last five matches, however, Chelsea are on an even better run with seven wins on the bounce. Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal’s leader at the back, will be out for this game after collecting a red card on the final day of the league season, while Gabriel, who injured himself in that same game, is out of this clash and Shkodran Mustafi is a doubt for tomorrow, leaving Arsenal with only the young Rob Holding and veteran Per Mertesacker as the only fit centre-backs in the squad.
The rumour mill has been in overdrive concerning the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil at the Emirates and the result of this game might influence the fate of these players, while this could also be Arsene Wenger’s final game as the manager of Arsenal and the Frenchman will surely have a plan to further cement his place in English football folklore. This should be one very interesting final to watch as it could the finale to some careers at Arsenal.
In Spain, Barcelona will take on Alaves in the final of the Copa del Rey. The Blaugrana will be looking to win the trophy as a scant consolation for what has been a very difficult season for them. Luis Enrique announced in March that he will be stepping down as coach of Barcelona at the end of the season and this will be his last game in charge at the Nou Camp. The match will be played at the Vincente Calderon and it might be the last ever game to be played at that stadium, the home of Atletico Madrid, as the club will be moving to a new stadium next season. We would expect Barcelona and Alaves to give the stadium a final game to remember.
There will be three other finals that will be taking place across Europe this weekend. In Germany, Borussia Dortmund will take on Eintracht Frankfurt at the Olympiastadion in Berlin in the final of the DFB Pokal, while Angers will battle PSG in the Coupe de France final at the Stade de France and Benfica will be looking to complete the league and cup double this season with a win over Vitoria de Guimares in the final of the Taca de Portugal at the Estadio Nacional.
The final of the Championship Playoffs between Huddersfield and Reading will take place on Monday at Wembley. Aside from the prize of promotion to the EPL at stake in this match, it is potentially worth about two hundred million pounds to the winning team and we should expect a lot of intensity from both teams. Reading finished third on the table and defeated Fulham 2-1 on aggregate to get to this stage, while fifth-placed Huddersfield beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-3 on penalties to qualify for this game. Former Manchester United defender, Jaap Stam is the coach of Reading and would want to test his tactical prowess against the big boys in the EPL next season with a win in this game, while his opposite number, David Wagner, one of the emerging talents in the profession, will be looking to continue his steady rank in the managerial world. This should be a very entertaining game to watch.