FA Cup final weekend football countdown – as it happened
And that’s it. Enjoy the magic of the FA Cup tomorrow. A 4.45pm kick-off don’t forget. I’ve been telling everyone it’s 5pm until double checking today. Thanks for reading!
Let’s end with some fun facts on the FA Cup final. Pub ammo here:
- The 2021-22 FA Cup Final will be the 19th managerial meeting in all competitions between Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel, meaning Klopp will have faced only Dieter Hecking (21) and Pep Guardiola (24) more often as a manager. In the two knockout ties between the men, Klopp has defeated Tuchel on both occasions – the 2015-16 Europa League quarter-final and the 2021-22 League Cup final.
- Sadio Mane has scored six goals against Chelsea since moving to Liverpool in 2016-17, with no other player netting more often vs the Blues in this time. Following the Senegalese’s brace in the semi-final v Man City, he is looking to become the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive Wembley appearances (when used as a neutral venue) since Phillipe Coutinho in April 2015 & February 2016.
- No player has had a direct hand in more FA Cup goals this season than Chelsea’s Timo Werner (two goals, three assists), which is also the outright most of any player for the two sides in the final. The last players to contribute directly to more Chelsea goals in the same campaign in the competition were both Pedro (six) and Willian (seven) in 2016-17, though they did end up on the losing side to Arsenal in the Final at Wembley that season.
Is there a sliver of hope for Liverpool that Manchester City will blow it against West Ham at the weekend?
Some highly selective Opta stats for you:
- Man City are winless in their last two visits to the London Stadium (D2). This includes a goalless draw and eventual penalty shootout defeat in the League Cup earlier this season.
- West Ham won their last Premier League match against the league leaders, defeating Chelsea 3-2 in December.
- Manchester City lost their final away league game last season, going down 3-2 at Brighton.
- West Ham have scored in all 18 of their Premier League home games this season.
You just never know.
Final score: West Ham 1-4 Man City
Quiz time! Okay, it’s a general sports quiz but six of them are football-related. I’m sure you can beat my tally of seven.
The Fiver is out! And, yes, the ‘magic levels’ of the FA Cup come under close scrutiny.
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper wants to embrace history rather than be weighed down by it when his team take on Sheffield United in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Forest won a league title and back-to-back European Cups (1979 and 1980) under Brian Clough but haven’t been in the Premier League this century.
Cooper, who led Swansea into the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, said: “It’s not a weight – it depends on your mindset and how you look at things, but I think it’s a pride and it’s about being a part of something massive.
“What we’re trying to do is really embrace that amazing era of the club, and create positive futures as well. I like coming to the City Ground and seeing all the stuff on the walls – there’s nothing negative whatsoever about it.”
“The most important thing is being absolutely ready to go to Bramall Lane. We’ve got to thrive on it and not be fearful of it. If you want to succeed in life these are the sorts of things you have to embrace and go for.
“Nerves and anxiety are normal and we shouldn’t be scared of that. We shouldn’t dismiss it, we need a good self-awareness about what’s going on. If you feel nervous and anxious it shows you care. But you’ve also got to get the confidence and the motivation.”
Talking of Leeds and history, here’s a nice tweet from Paul ‘You Are The Ref’ Trevillion.
Brighton boss Graham Potter - another contender for that Manager of the Season shortlist - has warned his side to expect a hostile atmosphere at relegation-threatened Leeds on Sunday.
The Seagulls boss said: “It’s Elland Road, the last home game of the season for them, last chance for them to support the team, so we’re expecting a hostile, tough, challenging environment.
“We expect a hostile game, we expect aggression, we expect all of that because the supporters are going to be trying to help them as much as they can.
“It’s up to us to try to change that narrative and make it more difficult for them. But it’s going to be a test and the guys are looking forward to it.
“It’s a good game for us. It’s not like we’re playing against a team with nothing to play for, if you like. We have to make sure we go there and perform well.
“I have a lot of respect for Leeds United, what they’ve achieved recently and their history in general.
“But we can’t think about that, we have to focus on performing well and try to get three points.”
Brighton head into the weekend in ninth place following their 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United last Saturday.
And how about Manager of the Season?
- Thomas Frank
- Pep Guardiola
- Eddie Howe
- Jurgen Klopp
- Patrick Vieira
Bit harsh on David Moyes. Klopp for me. Vote here if you furiously disagree.
The Young Player of the Season nominations are also in.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold
- Phil Foden
- Conor Gallagher
- Tyrick Mitchell
- Mason Mount
- Aaron Ramsdale
- Declan Rice
- Bukayo Saka
Strong list. Saka for me. He’s really lifted his club rather than helped it sail along.
More from Tuchel. The German boss was asked if both Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz could play in attack against Liverpool tomorrow.
It’s basically a no.
“I can also play both although they lack a bit of a feeling of a perfect fit together.
“So it’s very likely that it’s one of the two, but we will not give the line-up today.
“But listen, Romelu played lately and scored lately and did everything to stay on the pitch. So it will be our final call tomorrow morning.”
For the record, Lukaku has 15 goals this season, averaging one every 172 minutes.
Havertz has netted 13 times, scoring every 233 minutes.
Havertz has four assists while Lukaku has none. Mason Mount has 13 goals and an eye-catching 16 assists.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel insists Romelu Lukaku’s agent seeking talks with Chelsea’s new owners will not prove a distraction ahead of the FA Cup final against Liverpool.
“If he plans to talk with the owner maybe it’s not his plan to talk with me, so fair enough,” said Tuchel in today’s press conference. “Let’s see if he gets a meeting and he can get to talk, that’s his right.
“We will talk to anybody, to any party and we will evaluate any situation of any player, including Romelu’s. And then we will see what happens and what pans out.
“I just was aware of it five, 10 minutes ago actually. That’s what it is sometimes in football, the attention is so high that sometimes it attracts situations that you don’t want to have before big matches. But that’s the way it is.
“For me it’s not a distraction and hopefully for everybody who works for the team, and the player himself also.”
Burnley’s Mike Jackson was voted Premier League Manager of the Month yesterday which is a massive downer for his side’s hopes of survival.
I am, of course, talking about the ‘curse’. It’s easy to think confirmation bias is at play here when we notice a recipient suffering a poor result on the back of being handed the award.
But Richard Foster in a Guardian Sport Network piece had a delve into this season’s awards and came out with this. It seems the ‘curse’ is actually a thing.
The prize has been given out eight times and the various newly crowned managers have picked up only eight points from a possible 24 in their next fixtures, the sort of form associated with relegation stragglers.
Ahead of the now inevitable loss to Spurs on Sunday, Jackson says he’s still hopeful that key defender James Tarkowski could be fit.
Tarkowski suffered a hamstring problem in last week’s loss to Aston Villa, but was able to take part in light training on Friday.
“We’re still waiting on Tarky at this moment in time. He’s not been with the group but he’s been out doing some running today. It’s about making the right decisions with him and the group on the day.”
You just know this is going to be good - it’s Marina Hyde on Rebekah Vardy, Coleen Rooney and the Wagatha Christie trial.
Admittedly, proceedings have added several hilarious entries to the annals of quotable quotes. The court heard how Vardy declared in 2019: “Arguing with Coleen is like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong, but it’s still going to shit in your hair.” So at one end of London’s Strand we have Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, and at the other end we have Rebekah Vardy in the high court. Both are covered in pigeon shit: who wore it better?
A new piece from David Hytner about Antonio Conte and Spurs.
The January transfer window had closed, the summer was a long way away and Conte surely risked alienating some or all of those he would have to work with for the remainder of the season. Had he gone too far with the helplessness and resignation?
There were several hard-to-answer questions. What was indisputable was that Conte had gathered his chips and shoved them all in. On one level, it was him leveraging his future involvement with the team, the suggestion there that the players would regret it if he left.
Amnesty International has commented on reports that Newcastle are planning to announce a new white and green away strip for the 2022/23 season which bears a striking resemblance to the Saudi Arabia national team kit.
A statement (via PA Media) said: “If it is true that Newcastle United is changing its away kit to match Saudi Arabia’s national colours, it exposes the power of the Saudi dollar and the kingdom’s determination to sportswash its brutal, blood-soaked human rights record.
“Despite all their assurances of a separation between the Saudi owners and the club, this seems like clear evidence of the regime using Newcastle to portray a positive image.
“Everyone – from fans to champions – needs to resist being part of Saudi Arabia’s propaganda drive, be aware of what is going on there and speak out about the Government’s abuses – the mass executions, Khashoggi’s murder and dire situation for LGBTI+ people. Sport must not be allowed to be used like this.”
Jürgen Klopp says Fabinho will definitely be available for the Champions League final against Real Madrid at the end of the month.
The midfielder limped out of Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Villa Park but Klopp gave a positive update on the Brazilian in today’s press conference.
“[He] will definitely be back for the [Champions League] final.
“[He is] absolutely OK. Fab is a professional, he was obviously not happy about it, that’s clear, but he took it and is already taking on the fight against time, if you want. That’s how it is.
“It is not enough if you are ready on Friday before the final, it should be Tuesday or Wednesday or something like that and we are working on that and we are all very positive that it will be the case. So he is absolutely OK.”
Some Manchester City team news ahead of Sunday’s trip to West Ham where a win virtually secures the title given their goal difference (+72 to Liverpool’s +65).
Victory would give City 92 points with a game to play. Liverpool can only get to 92 with wins in their final two matches - away to Southampton and home to Wolves.
(From PA Media)
Manchester City will give a late fitness test to Aymeric Laporte.
The centre-back was forced off with a knee issue during Wednesday’s victory at Wolves, joining a lengthy list of defensive injuries with Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias already out.
Fernandinho, who played as a makeshift defender at Molineux, also reported a muscular problem and Nathan Ake has played in spite of an ankle complaint in recent weeks.
Manager Pep Guardiola said: “They are in treatment and we’ll see tomorrow who is available. Until the day of the game we will not be able to decide the availability of the players.”
Booked a ticket for the Guardian Football Weekly Live Tour yet?
Come on Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester... let’s do this. Tickets here.
Hoping to see Max, Barry, John et al handing out goodie bags, pens, balloons, that sort of thing, outside City Varieties in Leeds on June 13th.
Wait, I’m informed free gifts haven’t been approved yet. Still, get yerselves along.
Thankyou. Fair play to John for dissing the ‘Blue Day’ Cup final song. It’s certainly no ‘Anfield Rap’. Anyway, why he goes off to watch YouTube videos of Tony Iommi’s fretwork, I’ll guide you through to full-time.
And with that, for the rest of the afternoon, over to David Tindall.
The latest entry in the long-running series of “journalists will laugh loudly at absolutely everything” is here. And yes, I have been just as guilty as anyone.
See the Agüero statue unveiled here.
North London derby and the FA Cup final previewed by Max, Barry et al.
Chelsea team news, per PA Media.
Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic will try to force himself into enough fitness to play in the FA Cup final. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel has confirmed Kovacic will attempt to play through the pain in Saturday’s Wembley clash with Liverpool. The Croatian hobbled out of Wednesday’s 3-0 Premier League win at Leeds after copping a nasty tackle from Dan James.
“We will try it today actually, which is pretty surprising news where we are in the situation where we can try it,” said Tuchel. “Mateo wants to try it and the medical department gave the green light to try it. The ligament is anyway stretched from the last incident, so there’s no new injury but heavy pain, and it’s heavily swollen.
We’re hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it. But we will try it in training and then we will know about it some time after that.
Jürgen Klopp, while talking about the lack of tickets available to Liverpool fans for the Champions League final, has turned his guns on Uefa and the Nations League.
The reason why I’m not in such a good mood when I speak about Uefa is the Nations League - I still think it is one of the most ridiculous ideas in the world of football.
We now finish a season where players play more than 70 games easily: club games 63/64 plus international stuff which takes (some of) them to 75, which is really mad. And we continue with Nations League games with the national teams.
I said I would prefer UEFA took more money from Champions League and kick out the Nations League again. That would be my preferred solution in the end and more tickets for the people. My personal opinion. Maybe I don’t have all the information but I can’t do more than give my opinion.
Joe Pearson gets in touch: “So the main Sunday night feature in 1974 was a twenty year old adventure film starring Cornel Wilde and Mel Ferrer? And here I’ve been led to believe that English food is bad.”
I don’t think kids today - ! - appreciate the utter drudgery that was on TV at the time. Until about 1989 it felt like war films were on daily.
Leeds v Brighton is a huge fixture on Sunday, and the word from Jesse Marsch is that Jack Harrison and Raphina will be fit to play for Leeds, while they will wait to see if Patrick Bamford can play any part.
Another Chelsea star in Christian Pulisic spoke to Jonathan Liew.
I want to be on the pitch. I enjoy this club a lot. I’m hoping that I can get more opportunities.” How does he win back a regular place? “Do the absolute best I can in training, train hard and show him [Tuchel] on a daily basis that I’m ready to play. And then of course on the pitch, I have to make an impact.
Sam Kerr hopes to do more Sam Kerr things in Sunday’s final. She spoke to Suzanne Wrack.
“I’d play there every week if I could,” she says. “It’s a beautiful stadium. When the fans pack it out it’s an amazing experience. Any time you go to Wembley it’s an important game, so I love playing there. And look, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t, but the most important thing is that I do everything this week so that I know that I’ve done everything in my power to perform on the day.”
That Chelsea song is bad, I think they still play it at Stamford Bridge. It wasn’t the worst thing Suggs has been involved in. The Top of the Pops replay last week reminded me of this. I don’t mind Madness, but this is one of the worst cover versions of all. The local firewater responsible? Very possibly.
And on that bombshell, I’ll return the blog to John Brewin.
On this day in 2018 - Mo Salah set a new Premier League goalscoring record when netting his 32nd of the season. That beat the previous best haul in a 38-match campaign, set by Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
Salah hit those incredible levels for the first half of this season but, being honest, he hasn’t looked the same player since being ground into the turf by playing a string of 120-minute matches in the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt.
Did defeat in the final and Egypt’s subsequent failure to reach the World Cup in Qatar also drag him down? Senegal got the better of Egypt both times so perhaps it’s no surprise that Sadio Mane has more of a spring in his step going into the FA Cup final.
Liverpool top scorers since start of February
12 Sadio Mane
7 Diogo Jota, Mo Salah
6 Luis Diaz
Chelsea? I actually quite like their Britpop-ish ‘Blue Day’ from 1997. Full string section, a little cheeky piano nod to ‘It Must Be Love’ at one point. John will no doubt castigate me when he gets back from lunch.
FA Cup final songs. I always thought Steve McMahon’s vocals on ‘Anfield Rap’ - released ahead of the 1988 final against Wimbledon - didn’t get the credit they deserved. A bright, breezy performance, especially when set against the tuneless dirge that emanates from John Aldridge. You be the judge.
Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest play the first leg of their Championship playoff semi-final at Bramall Lane tomorrow. Kick-off 3pm. Barry Glendenning sets the scene here...
Vanishing spray. A wonderful thing and yours for just £6.99. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and amusing read by John Earls - originally written for When Saturday Comes. Talking of which, the postman has just delivered my June copy (issue 421) through the door.
Thanks John. Am certainly feeling a whiff of nostalgia ahead of the FA Cup final. This was a little bit early for me but I’m from the era where Cup Final Knockout was part of the build-up. Eddie Waring, Stuart Hall, Arthur Ellis and his dipstick. Isn’t it. Bit of Mike Yarwood before watching again on Cup Final Match of the Day. Of course, 1974 was also the ‘Brucie final’. Watch him here, expertly working the crowd and even throwing in the ‘Luton’ gag which was a funny thing back then.
Dave Tindall is your host for the next hour. Inundate him.
Robert Lewandowski will play in Bayern Munich’s final game of the season, against Wolfsburg, but his future remains unclear amid talk of a “one last job” move to Barcelona. Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern coach, said this from behind his Ray-Bans.
He will be starting tomorrow. As for the future the position of the club is known, my position is known and the contract situation with June 31, 2023 is also known. I will not be commenting on anything else regarding this. You can contact club officials... or for anything else ask Robert.
Newcastle play Arsenal on Monday at St James’ Park and that will have a big say in who lands fourth place. Eddie Howe has been speaking about his focus, having stayed up and what’s next for Newcastle. Perhaps a bit of trumpet blowing here, too.
I was always very calm - that’s my personality. If there’s a problem, then I’ll try to go away and fix it and work to find solutions, not really panicking or reacting adversely. I’m very much a thinker, so I was very calm and I always believed. I always believed in the players - and that was regardless of the transfer window - I always believed that we could stay in the division.
I said that many times and I don’t say it if I don’t believe it. I believe you can do special things on the training ground with players, you can improve players to a level that they don’t think they’re capable of. I still feel we have a long way to go in that respect, but the training ground work is what I love and that’s what we’ll really be focusing on for pre-season.
Fans can now vote for the Premier League’s EA SPORTS Player of the Season. And here are the nominations.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold
- Jarrod Bowen
- Joao Cancelo
- Kevin De Bruyne
- Bukayo Saka
- Mohamed Salah
- Son Heung-min
- James Ward-Prowse
Jarrod Bowen over Declan Rice seems a big call, but on reflection it’s the right one. James Ward-Prowse the other wild card but he’s been excellent. The way these things go, and due to “who do you support?” nature of these polls, it’s between “Trent” and Mo Salah, maybe with KDB chucked in.
As discussed on yesterday’s Football Weekly, the FA Cup final broadcast on the BBC starts at 4pm though there is a buildup of smaller programmes. Those of us graced by living in the 1980s, remember a much longer buildup, as depicted here by the excellent Steven Pye.
And there’s this, too, the supping of milk in the aftermath.
Sergio Agüero has been meeting a statue of himself - yes, that’s supposed to be him - up at the Etihad today.
Agüero is still a big City fan, judging by this video.
Some further details from PA Media, on a statue that marks the 93:20 goal ten years ago.
“For me that moment changed my life, changed the club and everything,” said Aguero after seeing the statue for the first time. For me it was the best moment of my life. That moment always will be in my heart. We don’t know what would have happened if we’d lost the Premier League that year. That year changed everything because in the next years we started winning more titles.”
The statue, sculpted by American-based Scottish artist Andy Scott, depicts the moment when Aguero ripped off his shirt in celebration after scoring in that famous game.
Some FA Cup final team news herein.
On Liverpool: Although Fabinho’s absence is undoubtedly a setback to Liverpool’s FA Cup and title prospects, their manager believes his squad will handle the loss.
Klopp, who replaced Fabinho with Jordan Henderson to good effect against Villa, said: “We have to cope, because we can cope. Having him or not having him is a difference but it is all fine. That’s normal stuff that happens. It’s never in a position where you have 12 options, it’s always in a position where you don’t. We have a few players. Hendo came on and played incredible. He has played super games this season at 6 so that is not a problem.”
On Chelsea: Kovacic, who heavily iced his ankle and leg on the bench at Leeds, has not sustained a long-term injury and could be involved against Liverpool if he is able to train on Friday.
Chelsea will be desperate for Kovacic to make himself available. The Croatia international has had an excellent season and Tuchel has other concerns in central midfield. N’Golo Kanté is a doubt after missing Chelsea’s past three games and Jorginho has been playing with a minor knock.
On matters Premier League, and last night’s north London derby, has there been a colder drive-by on a fellow manager than Antonio Conte on Mikel Arteta? Ouch.
Karen Carney, our columnist, looked at both finals, but has this to say on the Women’s FA Cup.
Emma Hayes’s side would see a Wembley victory over Manchester City as the cherry on the cake. There is something special about this group. They had to give everything in the Women’s Super League right up to the final moment to ensure they won a third successive title. For months they have known any slip could give Arsenal the advantage, which will have focused minds when the issues surrounding the club could have been a distraction.
Chelsea will be confident going into the final but I fancy Manchester City, which I know sounds really strange. They will have had less pressure recently, even though they’ve had to fight for their Champions League spot. They were comfortable in the end because of how they’ve been playing. They won their final nine league games, scoring for fun, and everyone has been chipping in with goals.
Chelsea will not need reminding of the role Liverpool’s second-choice goalkeeper played in their downfall when the sides last met at Wembley. The form of Liverpool’s first choice – or “the best goalie in the world”, to use Jürgen Klopp’s description – places a greater obstacle between Thomas Tuchel’s team and payback in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Lukaku set for talks over Chelsea future
Romelu Lukaku’s agent plans to hold talks with Chelsea’s new owners over the striker’s future and has admitted that “there was a problem” with the Belgium international earlier this season.
Lukaku has had a challenging campaign since joining Chelsea from Internazionale for £97.5m last summer and he clashed with Thomas Tuchel after questioning the manager’s tactics during an unauthorised interview with Sky Italia last November.
However the 29-year-old’s form has picked up in recent weeks – he could start tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Liverpool after scoring three goals in his last two appearances – and the former Manchester United striker’s agent, Federico Pastorello, has dismissed the prospect of him joining Inter or Milan this summer. Pastorello pointed out that Lukaku has scored 15 goals this season and insisted that he wants to fight for his spot at Chelsea.
“For the cost of the transfer, no one could have expected such a situation,” he told La Repubblica. “I do not discuss the tactical choices, but it is obvious that there was a problem. The numbers, however, must be considered - he is still the team’s best scorer, with less playing time compared to his teammates.
“The situation must be carefully assessed. Now there is Champions League qualification to secure, there is the FA Cup final. Romelu is focused on this, we have not talked about anything else.”
Lukaku loved his time at Inter but Pastorello said reports of him wanting to return to Italy are untrue. “Much ado about nothing,” he said. “He has the club and the fans in his heart, he has never hidden it, like his love for Anderlecht where he would like to end his career.
“It’s nonsense to speculate on negotiations: Chelsea have just defined the takeover of the club, we still don’t know our new interlocutors, let alone if we can hypothesize talks with Inter, AC Milan or whatever. We have to be patient and wait.”
Chelsea could struggle to find a buyer for Lukaku given that he earns around £300,000 a week. The Stamford Bridge club are close to being bought by a consortium led by Todd Boehly.
I got 22, see if you can beat that.
A return to Old Trafford for Fergie’s former assistant.
It was McClaren who is credited with the famous phrase: “Manchester United never lose, they just run out of time.”
Things have changed a bit since then.
Luton v Huddersfield tonight, and Ben Fisher sets up the tie.
Luton’s achievement is all the more remarkable given their modest resources. Their recruitment has been shrewd. They have a bottom-three budget smaller than some of the teams chugging along in League One, and their squad was assembled for less than £1.5m. Kal Naismith, Reece Burke, Jordan Clark and Gabriel Osho are among those who have thrived since arriving on frees. Elijah Adebayo, signed from Walsall last year, and Harry Cornick, who joined from Bournemouth in 2017, have impressed in attack.
Up for the cup, then. And league, still. Such is the convolution of the calendar that the men’s FA Cup final is being played with two matches of the Premier League to be played by most teams, while the women’s final - rightfully being played after the WSL season - is being played amid some vital men’s Premier League football. Oh well, on we go and the men’s FA Cup final is a repeat of both the final of 2012 - won 2-1 by Chelsea - and this season’s Carabao Cup final, won on penners by Liverpool.
The women’s FA Cup final sees Chelsea go for the double and defend the trophy they lifted in December after last season’s final was delayed by Covid.
And then there’s the Championship play-offs, being played tonight and tomorrow, starting with Luton v Huddersfield, and then followed by Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest, meaning there’s a 3/4 chance the Premier League’s newest team will be off the M1.
Sunday sees the return of the Premier League with so much at stake, and seven matches being played. After last night, Tottenham v Burnley takes the eye, with the Clarets fighting for their lives, though the big match is West Ham v Manchester City, where a City win would all but capture the Premier League title, barring a mathematical miracle from Liverpool.