FA Cup Semi-Finals
• Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City
• Manchester Utd 2-2 Chelsea AET
Saturday July 18
• Norwich 0-2 Burnley
Sunday July 19
• Bournemouth 1-2 Southampton
• Tottenham 2-0 Leicester
Monday July 20
• Brighton 1-1 Newcastle
• Sheffield United 2-0 Everton
• Wolves 2-0 Crystal Palace
Tuesday July 21
• Watford 0-3 Man City
• Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal
Wednesday July 22
• Man Utd 3-0 West Ham
• Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
The race for the top 4 and the battle to avoid relegation will all go down to the last day, unless Watford beat Manchester City and both Aston Villa and Bournemouth fail to win, however, Watford winning against Manchester City is highly unlikely. I have Watford, Villa and Bournemouth all separated by 3 points after Matchday 37, setting up an incredible Matchday 38, where I fail to see Watford winning at Arsenal, opening the door for both Villa and Bournemouth, who will travel to West Ham and Everton, respectively- 2 teams with nothing to play for on the last day.
My predicted results would see the top 4 contenders also separated by 3 points, with Manchester United using Matchday 37 to leapfrog both Chelsea and Leicester and occupying 3rd place going into the final day of the season. This would leave Leicester needing to beat Manchester United on Matchday 38. Leicester would face the exact same scenario, even if they draw to Tottenham, as Chelsea would be expected to reach enough points to secure their Champions League spot on final day of the season, by beating Wolves at home, so I expect Leicester to go all-out for the win against Tottenham on Sunday.
Game of the Week: Manchester United vs Chelsea
The non-stop fixture schedule is stretching both teams’ resources to the limit, and both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard will have decisions to make about prioritising their league commitments over securing a spot in the FA Cup. Chelsea have been handed a huge advantage going into this game, by being gifted 2 extra days off. In addition to that, Frank Lampard has rotated his team more frequently than Solskjaer, who has regularly made zero changes post-lockdown.
If United weren’t coming into this with a grossly unfair scheduling disadvantage, I would be taking United to win here, even with 3-4 changes. This is based on the fact that United and Chelsea have already met 3 times this season – in 2 Premier League matches and 1 Carabao Cup tie – with United emerging victorious every encounter, including a 4-0 victory in the teams season opener last August.
The combined XI is picked on the basis that both teams will go full strength on Sunday, even though it’s almost certain they won’t. However, it’s almost impossible to second-guess who they may rotate, especially with Manchester United being so consistent with the same core of players.
With United at a disadvantage it’s hard to take them, but also hard to go against them in their recent form, especially against a team they’ve beaten 100% of the time this season. I think goals at both ends are almost guaranteed in this one, and I can see both teams worst nightmare coming to fruition, with an additional 30 minutes of unwanted and draining football. Fortunately, it won’t be in the hot summery conditions that face Manchester City and Arsenal tomorrow evening.
United, who have scored in 16 consecutive fixtures and been a goal machine post-lockdown. They have also already shown that they have the tools to unlock the Blues’ defense at will in their 3 meetings this season. However, with their defense leaking goals to the likes of Bournemouth and Southampton as of late, their chances of keeping the Blues off the scoresheet for a 3rd time this season don’t look good.
Scoreline- Manchester Utd 2 Chelsea 2
Best Bet- BTTS @ 7/10