Chelsea vs. Arsenal FA Cup Final predicted lineups

The curtain will come down on the domestic campaign for top-flight sides in England on Saturday, as Chelsea and Arsenal contest what should be a classic FA Cup final.

Wembley Stadium will host the showpiece, which takes on significance for both teams for very different reasons. Chelsea, having clinched the Premier League title, are seeking to secure the double. Meanwhile, Arsenal can salvage a season of underperformance with a winning display.

And while this competition may not carry the gravitas it once did, each of these two giants of the Premier League has had to scrap to make their way to this stage.

The Blues went up against their closest challengers in the Premier League in Tottenham Hotspur in the final four, with Antonio Conte making the bold decision to rest some of his key performers. One of those, Eden Hazard, came off the bench to sprinkle his stardust on a tight encounter and win the semi-final for Chelsea.

Arsenal showed they have a sturdy side as they came from behind to beat Manchester City, with Nacho Monreal and an extra-time winner from Alexis Sanchez sending them through. However, you sense their London rivals will offer a much sterner test of their trophy-winning credentials.

Whenever these two juggernauts of the English game meet, there is always quality, always fireworks and always drama. Given what’s at stake at one of the most iconic football arenas in the world on Saturday, expect another memorable chapter to be added to their rivalry.

Where to watch the game on US TV and streaming

Date: Saturday, May 27, 2017
Time: 12:30 p.m. (ET) / 9:30 a.m. (PT)
US TV: FOX network
US Streaming: FOX Soccer 2GO, DIRECTV NOW (in select cities), Sling Blue (in select cities) and fubo Premier (via FOX Sports GO authentication) (7-day free trial)

Arsenal

Regardless of how Saturday’s final pans out, the 2016-17 campaign will be one of disappointment for Arsenal, as the club failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. But the FA Cup would at least lift spirits ahead of a crucial summer.

A trophy is a trophy, after all. And for a fanbase that bemoaned a decade without silverware between 2004 and 2014, no prizes should be taken for granted. Especially given Arsenal will have to produce a massive display to overcome the champions.

Arsenal showed they are capable in the semi-final against City. That day they weren’t at their fluid best, but they barged and bustled their way back into the game before holding firm late on. It was a galvanizing display and one that kickstarted a strong finish to the Premier League season.

So too did Arsene Wenger’s change in tactics. The Frenchman made the switch to a three-man defense at Middlesbrough and the Gunners have looked revitalized, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, in particular, enjoying the freedom that comes with being part of a front three.

There are concerns Wenger has ahead of the final, though, particularly at the back. Laurent Koscielny is suspended, Gabriel Paulista is injured and Shkodran Mustafi is a major doubt after suffering with concussion. It means, having made his first appearance of the season last time out against Everton, Per Mertesacker may be pushed into a starting berth.

And not only will Wenger have to tweak his three-man back line, in Chelsea and Conte he’s coming up against a side who know this way of playing inside out; that may prompt a switch in system. If the Gunners were able to pull this one off, it’d be quite the surprise.

Chelsea

When Chelsea kick off at Wembley on Saturday, it will have been two weeks since they clinched the Premier League title against West Bromwich Albion. Plenty seems to have gone on since then.

The Blues had the homecoming against Watford—a chaotic 4-3 win—, John Terry’s self-styled farewell at Stamford Bridge against Sunderland and were eventually presented with the trophy against Sunderland on the same day. So you wonder whether some focus may have slipped away from those in blue.

After all, finally getting over the line in a Premier League title race must be a relieving experience. So much pressure has been on the players and so much effort would have been exerted in pursuit of that crown. Surely those players would have taken a deep breath, relaxed and reflected on their accomplishment.

Conte doesn’t strike as the type of manager who will allow complacency to creep in, though. The Italian has remained a picture of intensity on the sidelines as the season has wound down and you sense he’ll be drilling into the players the significance of winning a domestic double.

Because it is significant. Only twice in this millennium has a team paired the FA Cup with the Premier League title; Arsenal in 2002 and the Blues under Carlo Ancelotti in 2010. To be able to get over the line in two tournaments, and two very different tournaments at that, is the mark of the complete team.

And in terms of fitness Conte is set to have a complete team to pick from, a luxury his opposite number on Saturday would love to be afforded. Provided the champions play with the flair and functionality that’s been emblematic of their season, they’ll be too strong here.

Predicted lineups

Key battle – Hector Bellerin vs. Eden Hazard

Before Hazard entered Chelsea’s semi-final with Tottenham the outcome of the contest was in the balance. But the Belgian showcased his startling natural ability to put the Blues 3-2 ahead and on their way to a 4-2 win.

Hazard is a player Arsenal will have to be wary of. When the two teams met at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League earlier this season, the forward slalomed and slipped his way past a string of Gunners defenders to score one of the goals of the season. On a big pitch in a game that’s likely to become stretched, he may do so again.

Throughout the match Bellerin is the player most likely to be closest to Hazard, whether as a right-back or a right wing-back. The Spaniard has rediscovered some form as of late and has been a pest for opposition defenders when making his blistering raids up the touchline.

But it’s defensively where Bellerin must be alert on Saturday. He must be attuned to the darting movements, sharp turns and clever linkup play Hazard brings to the Chelsea attack. If the Blues No.10 isn’t well shackled, he has the capability to take the game away from Arsenal.

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