With the Champions League quarter-finals completed in midweek, England will turn its attention to the FA Cup as both the teams which progressed to the semi-final of the Champions League in Chelsea & Manchester City will now go toe-to-toe with each other in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening.
There will, however, be a few key battles where both teams can win and lose the game for their sides as Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel will certainly be wary of them. Let us take a close look at them:
Kyle Walker vs Christian Pulisic:
Two certain starters for the game on Saturday will surely be City’s ever so reliant Kyle Walker and Chelsea’s captain America in Christian Pulisic.
The winger has been brilliant in the past 2 weeks for the club after there were doubts regarding his future under Tuchel at Chelsea but has now come to life with the winger scoring 3 goals in 4 appearances since the start of April and plans on causing a lot of problems to Kyle Walker on the weekend.
While Kyle Walker is one of the most reliant full-backs in world football, Christian Pulisic did get the better of Walker when the two faced each other last season in one of the most thrilling end of the season games. Pulisic was instrumental on the night as he was constantly going past Walker and the full-back did not have any answers for the trickery of Chelsea’s high-flying winger.
However, Walker has shored up his defensive issues this season and has shut out the likes of Sadio Mane, Marco Reus, Heung-Min Son, and Marcus Rashford this season. The defender has also been an integral part of a Man City backline that has only let in 23 goals this season. However, with Pulisic, things might be a bit different as due to the winger’s low center of gravity, he can dribble past opponents at much more ease than the other mentioned above.
While Walker will relish this challenge, Pulisic will also have a fair bit of tracking back to do to stop the full-back from crossing into dangerous areas and if either one is not on their game on the weekend, it could become a huge problem for their club and could end up costing their side a place in the FA cup final.
Kevin De Bruyne vs N’golo Kante:
Two world superstars, two players arguably the best in the world in their positions, and from City and Chelsea’s perspective, two players who are absolutely crucial to their team’s set-up.
Kevin De Bruyne has had yet another sensational season this term and will want to cause further damage to his old club as he did so at the start of the year with the Belgian orchestrating City’s 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge. His vision, his range of passing, his ability from set-pieces have been absolutely mesmerizing yet again this season and Guardiola will be hoping that the midfielder will be up to his usual best on Saturday.
So what is the antidote to somebody who can pick out a pass from anywhere and drive through opposition teams? The answer- a player who can disrupt and dispossess the former in every position on the park. N’golo Kante has been incredible under Thomas Tuchel and is quite certainly back to his scintillating best of breaking up opposition play, intercepting passes, and making tactical fouls.
If there is a player in the Premier League who can completely stop De Bruyne from functioning it is the Frenchman and Tuchel is very aware of it. Tuchel understands that if De Bruyne is stopped, he can stop Man City from functioning altogether.
However, this is not the first time the Belgian is up against the Frenchman but it has been a long time since Kante has been played in his favoured role of a double pivot in midfield and the little Frenchman will love nothing more to shut out De Bruyne from the game on Saturday.
Then again, Kevin De Bruyne, more often than not, comes out victorious in most duels and if the midfielder is up for the game on Saturday, there will certainly be a fascinating match-up between two of Premier League’s premium players.
Ben Chilwell vs Phil Foden:
English internationals, key to their club’s recent success in the Champions League, Phil Foden vs Ben Chilwell on Saturday is going to be a tactical battle as both have a point to prove and a place to cement in their club’s respective starting XI.
While Phil Foden certainly has a higher ceiling as a player than Ben Chilwell, the Chelsea full-back has been one of the Top 3 full-backs in the Premier League this term. However, it was Foden, who on Wednesday night brought a joyous feeling to Pep Guardiola as he smashed the goal that confirmed City’s place in the semi-finals of the Champions League for just the second time in the club’s history.
Ironically enough, Ben Chilwell did something very similar for Chelsea as it was ultimately the full-back’s goal in Chelsea’s 1st leg against Porto that sealed the tie for Chelsea and booked a place for the club in the semi-final of the illustrious competition.
Now on the cusp of just being 2 games from lifting the FA cup trophy, both players understand the kind of performance they will have to deliver on Saturday and while Foden will like his chances, Chilwell will have a plan up his sleeve.
Foden’s movement off the ball is what throws off most defenders while the winger’s one-two passing in tight spaces is what ultimately causes a problem for a backline and Chilwell will certainly be up for the task.
Chilwell has in the past 2 months has stopped the pairs of Alexander Arnold-Salah and Koke-Trippier from creating little to nothing, so a young industrious Phil Foden, albeit a new challenge will not cause any sort of fear in Chilwell and will certainly cause Foden with his fair share of defending as Chilwell has a tendency to make marauding runs on the left-wing and put in dangerous crosses for his team-mates.
The match on Saturday will certainly be a possession-hungry tactical feud between Chelsea and Manchester City, but these 3 key battles are the ones that could make or break the game for either club.