5 Keys to Chelsea Beating Manchester City in the FA Cup Semifinal
FA Cup holders Chelsea will face Premier League Champions Manchester City at Wembley on April 14 in the FA Cup semifinal. City will have had a week to rest and train for this tie, whereas Chelsea will spend Friday travelling back from their Europa League tie in Moscow. As the fixtures come thick and fast, it is vital that Rafa Benitez organises the squad to strike the right balance.
Having made some poor substitutions in the previous meeting between the sides, Benitez will need to get it right first time if he wants to add another trophy to his CV. Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw by City in his first game in charge, and he will need to inspire more from his players this time around.
If the Blues are to retain their title, they will need to work efficiently by nullifying City's best attackers whilst deploying their own favoured 11. The following five basic rules will be key to Rafa Benitez winning the cup which has held so much significance for Chelsea fans through the years.
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Use the Three Amigos
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When Man City visited Stamford Bridge for Benitez's first match in charge of Chelsea, the Interim One started the Three Amigos in support of Fernando Torres. The 0-0 draw was overshadowed by the passionately hostile reception from the fans, but the shutout was partly because of the team effort involved in containing all three players.
Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar are all players capable of individual brilliance. The understanding that they have fostered this season as a kind of team within a team is remarkable, and it forces opponents to change their game. The likes of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez will still look to exploit the attack, but Yaya Toure and David Silva will be drawn into a more defensive game.
If Chelsea can be persistent yet patient, as they were in their quarterfinal against Manchester United, a moment of brilliance from Mazacar will see them through to the final.
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It sounds obvious, but Manchester City have not lost a Premier League game after scoring first in the entire 2012-13 season. Chelsea may be the comeback kings, but tired legs will make it difficult to break down a City side defending an early lead.
Fernando Torres seems to have found himself behind his Zorro mask, and he will need to continue his recent run of first-half goals to give Chelsea their best chance of advancing to the final.
Stop Sergio Aguero
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After his final-day heroics at the end of last season, it is hard to read Aguero's name without cranking the volume and adding several o's at the end. He has 10 Premier League goals from 18 appearances and will look to exploit Chelsea's shaky defence.
If Roberto Mancini starts him then it would be best if John Obi Mikel is assigned as his shadow for the match. Aguero is a huge threat on the counter and Mikel is the only defensive midfielder disciplined enough to stick with him.
David Luiz likes to roam too much, Ramires is an attacking midfielder and Frank Lampard will most likely be left on the bench. Whilst Benitez has never used man-marking as his only defensive system, he will need to employ it if Aguero starts this semifinal
Start John Terry
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Chelsea's defence has been uncharacteristically leaky this season, with 33 goals finding their way past Petr Cech in the Premier League. The constant rotation of the centre-backs has led to a lack of organisation and the Blues simply cannot afford any lapses in concentration against Man City.
The FA Cup is the only trophy that City are chasing, just one season after bringing the Premier League title to the blue half of Manchester. Having spent millions on a squad that was built to rival their more successful neighbours, a season without silverware is not an option. Roberto Mancini will be free to start his most attacking 11 without the constraints imposed on Rafa Benitez through the congested fixture list.
Gary Cahill has a knee injury and Benitez refuses to start John Terry in consecutive matches. This game would be a perfect time to change that policy, as the organisational aspect to his game changes the defence. Terry alongside David Luiz would be the best pair in the middle of the back four to keep a steady line, in the face of what is likely to be a brutal City attack.
Waste Not, Want Not
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Chelsea had the chance to take the lead at the Etihad through a Frank Lampard penalty, which the 200-goal hero uncharacteristically missed. City seized on that moment and went on to win 2-0. Profligacy from what should be threatening set pieces has been a key theme throughout Chelsea's season, and they will not be able to afford any such luxury at Wembley if they want to return there on May 11.