Chelsea VS Crystal Palace – LIVE Football Soccer 17/4/2022
Real Madrid had seemingly established themselves as this season’s Champions League comeback kings after dumping Paris Saint-Germain out of the tournament, but Carlo Ancelotti was on the brink of suffering an embarrassing collapse against his former club before a certain Frenchman came to the fore. While Thomas Tuchel’s side bagged three goals of their own against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and were close to becoming the first English side ever to win on the Madrid turf by at least two goals, Luka Modric’s delightful ball for Rodrygo to volley home forced extra time before that man Karim Benzema once again headed home to break blue hearts.
The defence of their European crown may be over, but Tuchel’s side dominated Real Madrid on their own patch for large periods and will take that momentum forward into Sunday’s semi-final, as they bid to reach the FA Cup final for the third season running. Chelsea were forced to collect runners-up medals in 2020 and 2021, but they have found their way past Chesterfield, Plymouth Argyle, Luton Town and Middlesbrough to make it to Wembley, albeit with only one clean sheet in tow against their lower-league opponents.
Not since the EFL Cup final defeat to Liverpool have Chelsea failed to find the back of the net, and the Blues appear to have recovered from that temporary blip at the start of the month, so a shot at a ninth FA Cup crown is firmly within their sights, but Tuchel’s opposite number knows a thing or two about success in the prestigious competition. On May 21, 2005, Patrick Vieira kicked the ball for the very last time as an Arsenal player, and his perfectly-placed spot kick propelled Arsenal to the FA Cup crown at the expense of Manchester United – his fourth and final medal in the competition with the Gunners.
Now seeking a maiden honour as a manager, the 45-year-old’s Crystal Palace side have caught the eye in recent weeks with a spate of strong performances – Manchester City and Arsenal are well aware of the Eagles’ power – but last weekend’s defeat to Leicester City showed that they are still far from the finished product.
Millwall, Hartlepool United, Stoke City and Everton have all been dumped out of this season’s FA Cup by Palace – who have scored at least two goals in all of those games while only conceding two overall – but they are the only team left in the competition who do not already have an FA Cup in their trophy cabinet.
The Eagles went down to Manchester United in the 1990 final before falling to the Red Devils’ superiority once more back in 2016, but they had strung together a seven-game unbeaten streak before the recent loss to Leicester – a stellar run which included four successive clean sheets against stiff opposition.
An all-London FA Cup semi-final will play out on Sunday afternoon at Wembley as Chelsea and Crystal Palace battle against each other for a place in the showpiece event next month, where they will come up against either Manchester City or Liverpool.
Chelsea began their FA Cup journey with an easy win over Chesterfield in the third round. But they were pushed to the brink by Plymouth Argyle and Luton Town in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Having survived the scare, Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in the quarter-finals. They head into the game on the back of a 3-2 win over Real Madrid, although that was not enough to keep them alive in the UEFA Champions League.
Crystal Palace, meanwhile, progressed to the penultimate stage of the FA Cup after seeing off challenges from Millwall, Hartlepool United and Stoke City before thumping Everton 4-0 in the quarter-finals. Patrick Vieira’s side had been on a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions, including a draw against Manchester City and a win versus Arsenal. But that was halted last weekend by a defeat to Leicester City.
Chelsea have prevailed over Crystal Palace in both their meetings this season, winning 3-0 and 1-0, although the latter match was an evenly-contested affair. Ahead of this exciting encounter at Wembley, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Chelsea have greeted some good news on the injury front as Romelu Lukaku has returned to training after missing the last two games against Southampton and Real Madrid. Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi remain the only absentees for the Blues heading into the clash at Wembley.
Chelsea lined up in a 3-4-1-2 setup against Real Madrid earlier in the week and could stick with a similar formation on Sunday. Edouard Mendy would be the man guarding the goal for the Blues ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Reece James was utilised as a right-sided centre-back to counter the threat of Vinicius Junior in midweek. But Tuchel could turn to Trevoh Chalobah to occupy that position against Palace to keep an eye on Wilfried Zaha. Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger would be his partners in the three-man backline, with Cesar Azpilicueta likely to miss out again.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek started in a quasi-wing-back role on the right side and made a solid impression. However, Reece James should start as the right wing-back on Sunday. Marcos Alonso ought to continue on the opposite flank, with N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic likely to form the midfield partnership. Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho will be options from the bench.
Mason Mount has been in fine form of late and will slot in as the lone attacking midfielder looking to stitch play together in the final third of the pitch. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have also been in good touch in front of the goal recently. They should continue in the side, with the returning Lukaku expected to be a substitute.
Crystal Palace will be without one of their best players as Conor Gallagher will be ineligible to play against his parent club. The Eagles requested Chelsea to permit the midfielder to play in the FA Cup semi-final clash but were turned down by the Blues. In some positive news, Michael Olise and Tyrick Mitchell are back in training and should be available for selection on Sunday.
Patrick Vieira will continue setting his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Jack Butland, who should come in for Vicente Guaita for the cup game. Joachim Andersen and ex-Chelsea prospect Marc Guehi ought to form the centre-back pairing, flanked by the full-back duo of Joel Ward and Mitchell.
Cheikhou Kouyate should line up as the deepest of the three central midfielders for Crystal Palace. The veteran star will have support from James McArthur as they look to keep tabs on the likes of Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic. With Gallagher unavailable, Jeffrey Schlupp should occupy the third slot in the middle of the park and provide more bite and steel against Chelsea.
Wilfried Zaha will be the main threat going forward for Crystal Palace. The Ivory Coast international should slot in on the left flank, while promising starlet Michael Olise, who has impressed in the FA Cup, should occupy the right-wing. These two will be the Eagles’ primary creative outlets, while Jean-Philippe Mateta should line up as the centre-forward.