Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante (L) vies with Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba during the English FA Cup quarter final football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on March 13, 2017. PHOTO: Justin TALLIS / AFP
The eyes of the world may be on a Royal wedding at Windsor, but 18 miles to the east English football’s own showpiece event sees Chelsea and Manchester United face off in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday (1615GMT).
Both sides are in need of silverware to salvage underwhelming seasons.
Chelsea’s need is the greater, though, as having missed out on Champions League football for next season by finishing fifth in the Premier League, many expect Antonio Conte to take charge of the Blues for the last time, regardless of the outcome.
Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League and the FA Cup final in his debut season in England last year.
And he launched a fierce defence of his record at Stamford Bridge on the eve of what could he his last clash with old foe Jose Mourinho in England.
“I like to win. I like to win trophies. I like to be a winner. For sure, I like this. But, at the same time, I think that when you work very hard, when you try to give every day 120 percent, you must be satisfied,” said Conte on Friday.
“Miracles don’t always happen. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it didn’t. We did an important job. Then it’s not my task to take the decision.”
– Friendly end to feud? –
Conte and United boss Mourinho have consistently clashed since the former took charge of the club Mourinho led to three Premier League titles in two spells.
However, both men have tried to play down their feud in recent days with Conte insisting the pair will shake hands before the game.
Mourinho has at least ensured Champions League qualification for next season via a second-place finish in the Premier League.
However, the Portuguese hasn’t escaped criticism due to United’s often turgid performances, lacking in the invention and flair displayed by United’s fiercest rivals in Premier League champions Manchester City and Champions League finalists Liverpool.
Mourinho, though, argued that City running up the score on helpless Premier League rivals is not as “entertaining” as he expects a tight clash with his old club at Wembley to be.
“Do you think 6-0 is entertaining? I don’t think so,” Mourinho said on Friday.
“I think entertaining is emotion until the end, the game open, everyone on the edge of their seats, both dug-outs nervous and tense with the result in doubt.
“For a football lover that is entertaining for me. I think it will be entertaining tomorrow.”
Another former Chelsea man is United’s big injury concern as Romelu Lukaku faces a race against time to start up front due to an ankle injury.
The Belgian is Mourinho’s top scorer this season with 27 goals in all competitions, including five in as many games in the FA Cup.
“Lukaku we have to wait until the last moment,” added Mourinho.
Should Lukaku miss out, United will be counting on Alexis Sanchez to continue his excellent record of eight goals in as many games at Wembley for club and country.
Chelsea have no such injury concerns, and Conte hinted that first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could start despite Willy Caballero having played in all six FA Cup ties on route to the final.