ESPN commentator Jon Champion on the Premier League
ESPN’s man with the mic Jon Champion looks ahead to this weekend's Wembley showpiece. Watch ESPN's exclusive all-day coverage of the FA Cup Final on Saturday from 8am
FA Cup final day is still one of the most exciting days of the year, and I am really looking forward to the 131st edition. We have two heavyweights in the final this year in Chelsea and Liverpool. Of the 763 clubs that entered the competition, all the potential David’s have had a go at causing a historic upset, and now just these two goliaths remain.
Perhaps surprisingly, these two have never met on this stage before. They have met in a League Cup final in the last decade, as well as three Champions League semi-finals, so it is not as if they aren't used to playing each other in big matches - indeed, they met in the quarter finals of this season’s League Cup.
They know each other’s games and approaches inside out, which makes this game a tough one to call. Chelsea will start as slight favourites, due to their superior recent form, and I believe they are slightly better off than Liverpool in terms of their current development. Liverpool’s signings this season have not really come to fruition, whereas Chelsea's - such as Juan Mata and Gary Cahill - have really found form in recent weeks.
But, in the Reds favour, they do have two outstanding players in the form of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, both of whom are capable of providing moments of magic. The Uruguayan frontman scored one of the best hat-tricks I have ever seen last weekend at Carrow Road against Norwich City, and if he and Steven Gerrard come to the party then they have a real chance.
Neither side will go into the game brimming with confidence after mid-week home defeats in the Premier League. Both sides made lots of changes and neither of them coped with their opponents. Liverpool’s defeat to Fulham was pretty miserable, while Chelsea’s loss to Newcastle at least came against a side who have generally been in fine form of late.
What stands the Blues in good stead for Saturday’s showcase final is the fact that they have been playing big games on a regular basis over the last few weeks and have produced when it really matters. They will bring back big name players for the final as well.
Didier Drogba has a fantastic record in cup finals - whenever Chelsea play in a cup final, he seems to score and it is often the winner. Meanwhile, in Ashley Cole, they have a player who holds a piece of FA Cup history, with more winners medals than any other player in the modern era.
Chelsea also have a great recent history in the FA Cup, winning three of the last five finals.
As for Liverpool, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have both won the FA Cup twice in 2001 and 2006, Pepe Reina was in goal for that memorable final against West Ham in 2006 and Glen Johnson has won the cup with Portsmouth, but that’s it in terms of big match FA Cup Final experience.
Chelsea’s big match players - the likes of Drogba, Lampard and Terry - relish these kind of big match atmospheres, and the Chelsea squad have more experience in these big games, and that could be the defining factor. If Drogba is on form, he can be unstoppable, and I would see him starting ahead of Torres, although the Spaniard may well make a cameo appearance against his former side.
It is a very difficult one to call, but I fancy Chelsea to edge it. Either way, we're certainly set for a compelling encounter.
Jon Champion is lead football commentator for ESPN, broadcaster of the FA Cup and Barclays Premier League. ESPN will be providing all day and commercial free coverage of the FA Cup Final on Saturday from 8am till 8pm
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