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Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur will temporarily put their battle for the Premier League title on hold on Saturday, as the two London rivals gear up to face one another at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semi-final.
Although both sides would prefer to be crowned champions of England, their respective fanbases will be desperate to see their teams progress in one of the most prestigious competitions in the game.
Antonio Conte, in his first season as Chelsea manager, will want to get the first piece of silverware in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, his opposite number, Mauricio Pochettino, needs something tangible to cap Spurs’ progress under his guidance.
A fascinating afternoon is in store under the Wembley arch. Here are the key viewing details for the game, the latest team news and a preview of how this one will play out.
Date: Saturday, April 22
Time: 5:15 p.m. (BST), 12:15 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: BBC One (U.K.), FOX Sports (U.S.)
Live Stream: BBC iPlayer (U.K.), FOX Soccer 2GO (U.S.)
Chelsea: Having lost Thibaut Courtois and Marcos Alonso ahead of their loss to Manchester United, Conte will hope to call on the duo on Saturday. Willian and Cesc Fabregas may also feature after the Blues’ disappointing showing at Old Trafford.
Likely XI: Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Gary Cahill; Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa
Tottenham: Pochettino has options as things stand, although after utilising a 3-4-3 system to beat Chelsea in January, expect the same again here. It means the in-form Heung-Min Son may be relegated to the bench. Danny Rose remains sidelined.
Likely XI: Hugo Lloris; Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen; Kyle Walker, Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele, Ben Davies; Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Harry Kane
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There’s potential for the result of this semi-final to have an influence on the Premier League title race, although come Saturday evening the focus of these two sides will be progressing in this competition.
Given they haven’t won any trophy since 2008, it’s crucial for Spurs. Pochettino has built a brilliant young side, and they are playing the best football in the country. Winning something could be the catalyst for them taking the next step.
BT Sport commentator Ian Darke believes that winning some silverware and improving in Europe must be on Tottenham’s agenda:
Ian Darke @IanDarke
Spurs love-in going on. Fine team but need trophy and has dire Euro campaign been forgotten now ? Yes, Dele Alli should be on PFA list.
4/16/2017, 8:39:28 AM
As was the case last season in the Premier League, Tottenham have surged into the title race and are obliterating outfits with their aggressive and incisive style of football.
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Chelsea struggled to cope with their rivals when the two sides met in January, as a double from Alli halted the Blues’ winning run at 13 games. It was a time when Conte’s men were at the peak of their powers. However, at the moment, things seem to be unravelling slightly.
Against Manchester United, Chelsea really struggled to cope with the physicality and forcefulness of their opponents, turning in their worst performance of the campaign in a 2-0 loss. Per Alex Shaw of ESPN, they weren’t just leaky at the back either:
Alex Shaw @AlexShawESPN
Chelsea failed to get a shot on target in a league game for the first time in TEN years. That is astonishing.
4/16/2017, 9:17:21 PM
Yet, overall, the work done by Conte this season is to be lauded, and for the vast majority of 2016-17 his team have been the dominant force in English football.
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Provided Chelsea can get their key men back in Courtois and Alonso, they will feel capable of matching this rampant Tottenham team. The Italian will be demanding more from his star attackers, though, with Costa and Hazard failing to show their best in the league meetings between these two teams.
As noted by Liam Twomey of ESPN FC, Conte has admitted in the past he’s a little wary of the north London club:
Liam Twomey @liam_twomey
Conte said post-City that Chelsea have to assume Tottenham will win all their games. On current form, it’s not much of a stretch #cfc #thfc
4/15/2017, 1:35:01 PM
On current form, Tottenham should take this one. Pochettino’s men have been in an incredible groove as of late, bullying teams and showcasing an insatiable appetite for goals. The attacking trio of Kane, Eriksen and Alli are capable of causing Chelsea’s back three a lot of problems.
The Blues have the edge in experience, and they’ll be looking to the likes of Kante, Hazard and Costa to assume talismanic roles at the national stadium. But at the moment, Spurs have the edge and they’ll march into their first FA Cup final since 1991.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Tottenham