Recent Chelsea FA Cup record should give Conte confidence for final

How’s this for a stat; Chelsea haven’t lost an FA Cup game against Manchester United this century. Three wins – including the 2008 fina...

How’s this for a stat; Chelsea haven’t lost an FA Cup game against Manchester United this century.

Three wins – including the 2008 final after extra time – and a draw for the Blues from their last four meetings with the Red Devils in the world’s oldest knockout football competition leave Antonio Conte’s team unbeaten against this opposition since 1999.

Last season’s Premier League champions thus boast a great recent FA Cup record over United. Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho saw his current side knocked out last March by his old club who went on to contest the final.

It’s also a similar story across all competitions with the Blues losing just twice in their last 15 encounters with the Red Devils, winning eight. Both those defeats have come in Manchester, not London.

Tight betting heat.

Although the Premier League title now belongs to Manchester City, last year’s FA Cup final went the way of London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea coach Conte is yet to winner a major domestic cup as a manager, this may be the time to change that.

Bookmakers are basing their 2018 FA Cup final betting on league positions and have Man Utd, who are set to finish above the Blues in the table, as favourites priced around 6/4 chances for a win in 90 minutes.

While Chelsea are about 2/1 for victory without the need for extra time, the outright win market has these two heavyweights of English football much closer together. The book on lifting the trophy is tight with Mourinho’s men 8/11, marginally ahead of the Stamford Bridge side at evens.

That makes deciding where to place your Betfred free bet on this match tricky. If you fancy the match to go to extra time as the Blues and United did a decade ago, then a draw in 90 minutes is about a 9/4 outcome.

Dangers on both sides.

With little to choose between the teams in the betting or in terms of their route to this year’s FA Cup final on Saturday, 19 May, the match itself inevitably comes down to the players. Both Chelsea and the Red Devils have talents that can easily turn a game of this magnitude.

Mourinho has three ex-Blues players in United ranks; Serbia’s midfield destroyer Nemanja Matic, creative Spaniard Juan Mata and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku. The direct purchase of Matic from Stamford Bridge this summer caused consternation among some sections of supporters.

Spanish magician Mata and archetypal Mourinho centre forward Lukaku are the ones most likely to come back and haunt Chelsea, yet Conte can take heart from poor and average respective records. Mata has never netted against his old team or even made an assist coming into this cup final, while Lukaku has three goals in nine career outings versus the Blues.

Chelsea can mix it up style wise down the other end thanks to flair player Eden Hazard, the consistent hard work of Brazil winger Willian who has been consistently linked with Man Utd and have options up front. Mata’s rangy Spain international teammate Alvaro Morata offers a real threat when willing to run the channels, but the Blues also have that bustling big man in the Didier Drogba and Diego Costa mould in January signing Olivier Giroud.

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