FA Cup Final 2012 Preview
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Saturday 5th May



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 



Chelsea's Ashley Cole (above top) has won more FA Cup winners medals than any other player with six; while Liverpool's Steven Gerrard has already lifted a trophy this season in the Carling Cup in February


The 131st FA Cup Final is upon us from Wembley Stadium as Chelsea bid to win the trophy again while Liverpool look to make it trophy number two for the season after picking up the Carling Cup earlier in the year.

This will be the sixth occasion that the final will be held at the refurbished Wembley Stadium with Chelsea winning three of the previous five. It will be the first of two meetings in four days between the two teams as they lock horns in the Premier League at Anfield on Tuesday night following this battle for silverware supremacy. In addition, this is the first FA Cup final to be sponsored by Budweiser- an American beer company who took over sponsorship rights from EON at the beginning of this season's competition.

The Blues have had an astonishing turnaround in fortune and results since the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas and the placing of interim manager Roberto Di Matteo as first-team coach for the rest of the season on a caretaker basis. 34-year old former Porto boss Villas-Boas left the club after a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns which resulted in three wins out of twelve Premier League games leaving the club in seventh place in the table- five points off fourth placed Tottenham. Victory here for Chelsea and in their Champions League final showdown with German giants Bayern Munich would see the Italian coach in a fantastic position to take the job on a permanent basis although owner Roman Abramovich is keeping an "open mind". Ex-West Brom and MK Dons boss Di Matteo lost only a second of seventeen games in charge on Wednesday night in the 2-0 defeat against Newcastle United leaving them four points behind them in the race for fourth. Now he bids to become the third Italian manager to win the trophy in a row after Carlo Ancelotti in 2010 with Chelsea and Roberto Mancini with Manchester City last year.

This battle resumes a rivalry between two successful English clubs meeting at Wembley on Saturday for the 31st time in all competitions in the past eight seasons. For Chelsea in recent times, a fourth FA Cup final in six years with which they won the previous three, a second ever Champions League final on the horizon in Munich and a Premier League title in 2010. For Liverpool, a Champions League and another final, a Carling Cup this season, eighteen Premier League titles and an FA Cup in 2006. Who will be smiling in the capital on Saturday night remains to be seen. You can safely say whoever it is- it won't be unchartered territory for them. Both had trophyless seasons last year- this time they mean business. Liverpool have won seven FA Cups compared to Chelsea's six while it the first meeting between the sides in the final.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish- whose side ennded their six year wait for silverware by winning the Carling Cup at the end of February after a tense penalty shoot-out victory over brave Championship side Cardiff City- has stated this week that the Premier League is becoming more "obsessive". In his eyes he values cups more than league positions so this would be a perfect time for him to prove this theory right with a League Cup and FA Cup double. It could compensate fans for the disappointing league campaign which hasn't reached the heights they wanted. Their last involvement in the FA Cup final was at the Millenium Stadium in 2006 when they fought back against West Ham in normal time to get to 3-3 before winning a penalty shoot-out. Their third Wembley trip this season- they have won both so far- can they make it three in a row? Surely he cannot be prioritising the league now that they are in eighth place- a massive 34 points off the leaders.

At least the fans will be able to make it back from Wembley after the game thanks largely to the National Express coach service laying on a special journey due to rail engineering work on the Mainline between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street while the Bank Holiday also had its part to play in what could be delays back to Merseyside for the Reds' supporters.



Didier Drogba and former Liverpool forward Fernando Torres appear to be in competition for one central striking berth in the Chelsea line-up. At the back, central defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz are both struggling with hamstring injuries.

Long-term midfield absentees Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam are Liverpool's only injury concerns. Striker Luis Suarez and captain Steven Gerrard are set to return after missing Tuesday's 1-0 defeat by Fulham.

Probable Chelsea line-upCech, Bosingwa, Terry (C), Ivanovic, A Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Ramires, Mata, Sturridge, Drogba.

Probable Liverpool line-upReina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique, Kuyt, Gerrard (C), Spearing, Downing, Carroll, Suarez.



Didier Drogba (Chelsea) vs Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)

Adam's comment: "For Chelsea to be successful in this game, then they will need Drogba to be at the top of his game and on his Wembley form. He has an astonishing goalscoring record at the national stadium which Liverpool and in particular defender Skrtel will be aware of. His fantastic goal in the semi-final against Tottenham just proves what a special player he still is and how important he is for Chelsea. The robust Ivorian will fancy his chances at picking apart the Liverpool backline which was distinctly shaky in midweek against Fulham. Skrtel, who scored the own goal which condemned the Reds to the home league defeat on Tuesday, has enjoyed his best season by far since his move from Zenit St Petersburg in 2008. He is a big powerhouse in the air, like Drogba, and will need to keep the striker quiet if Liverpool are to come away with the trophy." 



                                                                   Chelsea                                                               Liverpool

Round 3                                         Won 4-0 vs Portsmouth (H)                                    Won 5-1 vs Oldham Athletic (H)

Round 4                                             Won 1-0 vs QPR (A)                                        Won 2-1 vs Manchester United (H)

Round 5                                      Drew 1-1 vs Birmingham City (H)                                    Won 6-1 vs Brighton (H)

Round 5 Replay                           Won 2-0 vs Birmingham City (A)                                                 N/A

Quarter-Final                                  Won 5-2 vs Leicester City (H)                                     Won 2-1 vs Stoke City (H)

Semi-Final                                       Won 5-1 vs Tottenham (N)                                          Won 2-1 vs Everton (N)



Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

The 49 year old from Staffordshire has been appointed to his fourth major match at Wembley Stadium and will be his second match at the ground this season after handling the Community Shield in August. He is a Premier League (Select Group) referee. Dowd was assigned his first Premier League match in December 2001- Fulham versus Everton at Craven Cottage after being promoted from the Football League list earlier that year. The Football Association confirmed him as the man in the middle for Saturday's final three weeks ago. He has refereed 36 games so far this season in all competitions handing out 132 yellow cards and 5 red cards. His season highlights (in terms of appointments to big games) include Manchester United's 3-2 victory over local rivals City in the Charity Shield season curtain-raiser, City's 5-1 win away at Tottenham, United's 3-1 victory over Chelsea, Liverpool's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against City, United's 2-1 success over the Reds from Merseyside in the Premier League as well as the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield. Phil also took charge of the two sides' meeting in the Carling Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge back in December which the Reds won 2-0.


Phil has been refereeing since the age of 21 and was the fourth official for the 2006 FA Cup Final at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.

Match Officials:

Referee- Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Assistant Referees- Andy Garrett (Staffordshire) & Stuart Burt (Northamptonshire)

Fourth Official- Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Reserve Assistant Referee- Simon Long (Cornwall)



Referee Phil Dowd (above left) is confronted by then Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill after Villa's Carling Cup final defeat to Manchester United

Carling Cup Final                          Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United                        Sunday 28th February 2010

The Staffordshire official, in charge of his match as a referee at Wembley Stadium, made a controversial call in the fifth minute after awarding Aston Villa a penalty kick for the hauling down of Gabriel Agbonlahor by Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic. The decision to award a penalty was correct although it was surprising to see Dowd issue no card whatsoever to the Serbian defender which angered Aston Villa fans, players and staff. United then turned around the game with an equaliser from Michael Owen before substitute Wayne Rooney scored a headed winner for the Red Devils in the second half as they retained the trophy in the 50th League Cup final.


Npower Championship Play-Off Final                 Reading 2-4 Swansea City                      Monday 30th May 2011

Dowd had a generally error-free but still had two massive decisions to make in the winner-takes-all match deciding the third team promoted to the Premier League. With a lot at stake, at 0-0, Dowd pointed to the penalty spot for the first time in the game after Zurab Khizanishvili- who had already been booked- brought down Scott Sinclair. Again the referee chose to keep the player on the pitch and leave the cards firmly in the pocket. Sinclair dusted himself down to take the spotkick and put the Welsh side infront. Further goals from Sinclair and Dobbie put Swansea further in command with a 3-0 lead. Reading came out for the second half and reduced the deficit to 3-2 although the second Swansea penalty of the game was awarded by the official for Andy Griffin's body check on Fabio Borini allowing Sinclair to complete his hat-trick from twelve yards and seal the Swans' place in the top flight.


FA Community Shield                    Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United                        Sunday 7th August 2011

Phil handled a typically combustible Manchester derby at Wembley in the traditional curtain-raiser at the start of this season as the Premier League winners United and FA Cup winners City went toe-to-toe. The only moment of rememberance in terms of refereeing decisions from the Stoke-on-Trent based official came in the first half when a Micah Richards clattered into Ashley Young with a strong mistimed challenge which the United faithful feeling the tackle could have warranted a red card if it had been a "more important" game. City took a two-goal lead at half-time with Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko scoring the goals but Chris Smalling and a Nani double turned the game on its head in United's favour in the second period.



I think the match will be a great one from the neutral perspective with lots of excitement and drama. It promises to be an open contest between two good teams who are giants of English football. Two teams with contrasting fortunes it has to be said in 2012. Chelsea have changed their manager after a poor run of form and have reaped the benefits of installing Roberto Di Matteo as interim manager two months ago. Beaten only once in fifteen matches or so is a fantastic record- he has overcome Barcelona in a two-legged Champions League semi-final and has reached this final. That is some achievement for the Blues for a team galvanised by spirit and confidence which before couldn't beat the likes of Birmingham City at home and West Brom away. They come into the game on the back of a 6-1 derby thrashing against QPR. Liverpool on the other hand have had a poor league record in this calendar year but have reached the final of this competition and won the Carling Cup but like Birmingham look like they have been faltering after the stresses and strains of their previous Wembley final at the end of February. Their 3-0 victory over Norwich was because of a one-man show in truth from Luis Suarez whose hat-trick showed a range of world class finishing and a player who can cause Chelsea more than a problem and could be the difference between winning and losing for the Reds. Kenny Dalglish has demanded that his side fight for their places in the team more and put in performances that prove they are worthy of playing in the big matches. A fully fit Steven Gerrard firing on all cylinders is key. It is a dress rehearsal for when the sides meet again in the Premier League during the week at Anfield but we all know which of the two meetings both would rather win. Chelsea will win as they have players with the experience of being here time and time before while most of Liverpool's starting eleven on the day lack this and that will show on a big pitch. It may take the Blues a while to break them down but when they do it should be a fairly comfortable look to the scoreline.

Adam predicts Chelsea 3-1 Liverpool

Chelsea v Liverpool

Chelsea vs Liverpool (FA CUP FINAL, 5:15pm)

Liverpool have beaten Chelsea in all three games since Kenny Dalglish returned as Reds manager, and he was unbeaten against the Blues over ten games in his previous spell as Anfield boss too. So the Reds might have a bit of a hex over Roberto di Matteo's side, and they also seem to fare better against teams that come on to them a little bit, which Chelsea will do whether they have Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres playing up front. Chelsea have also got the Champions League final to look forward to in a couple of weeks and, because of their resurgence since Di Matteo took charge, they have become a big scalp again. But, by hook or by crook, I think Liverpool will win - although I think it might come via extra-time or even penalties. It will be that close. Dalglish said this week that winning two cups is better than finishing fifth in the Premier League and I think he's right because you are still in the Europa League, and you have some silverware too. So their success in the Carling Cup and run to the final of the FA Cup undoubtedly deflects some pressure off them after their poor league run, and you might be thinking that Dalglish badly needs to win this game for his job to remain secure. The thing with Liverpool, though, is that when you watch them at Anfield and see the games they have drawn and even some of the ones they have lost, then they have always created loads of chances. It is not going to take major surgery to get them much more like a top six team and I think their American owner John W Henry understands that. So, while Dalglish is under pressure just like any other Premier League manager, I don't think he is under as much pressure as people from the outside might think.

Mark Lawrenson predicts 1-1 (Liverpool win on penalties after extra-time)




Manchester United 0-1 Chelsea (2007): This was the first FA Cup Final to be played at the newly refurbished Wembley Stadium with Jose Mourin ho's Chelsea stealing away with the trophy in extra-time thanks to Didier Drogba's winning goal in a dreary match which didn't live upto expectations to complete a cup double for the Blues. The Ivorian, who had enjoyed 32 Premier League goals during the season, played a one-two with Frank Lampard before poking the ball past Edwin Van der Sar. Ryan Giggs missed a great chance in normal time to win the game while Arjen Robben was also inches away from providing the breakthrough inside ninety minutes but it wasn't to be for the most successful side in FA Cup history in what was the most well attended FA Cup Final since 1988 with near to 90,000 packed inside the emmaculate new venue.

Portsmouth 1-0 Cardiff (2008): The 2008 final was contested between a Premier League side who had just completed another fantastic season in the league finishing eighth and a Championship side who had finished eighth but just missing out on the play-off places. Portsmouth, who had knocked out Manchester United in the quarter-final stage, were odds-on favourites but edged past the Bluebirds in an even contest thanks to a goal from a once Arsenal FA Cup hero Nwankwo Kanu who pounced after Cardiff keeper Peter Enckelman had spilled John Utaka's effort. Glenn Loovens had a goal disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper after referee Mike Dean had ruled that the central defender had pushed David James off balance as the cross came in. This gave Pompey their first trophy under boss Harry Redknapp- and his first trophy in his managerial career in a season where all the big-guns were knocked out before the last eight.

Everton 1-2 Chelsea (2009): 2009's final will be remembered mostly for producing the quickest ever goal in an FA Cup Final scored by Everton's Louis Saha after just twenty-five seconds. The striker swivelled before devastatingly crashing a left-footed volley inside of the post and past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech to send the Toffees' fans into raptures. Chelsea levelled through Wembley goalscoring expert Didier Drogba who loves playing at the national stadium as he headed a curling Ashley Cole cross past Howard after getting in between Lescott and Jagielka. Chelsea, who have an excellent recent record of winning this trophy, turned it around when Frank Lampard's shot from twenty-five yards found a way past the despairing dive of Howard who didn't get a strong enough hand to it thus giving Guus Hiddink a trophy to lift in his final match as caretaker manager.

Chelsea 1-0 Portsmouth (2010): In 2010, cash-strapped and already relegated from the Premier League, Portsmouth were back in the FA Cup Final and gave Chelsea a run for their money on the much-maligned Wembley turf. The Fratton Park club, who entered administration earlier in the week, missed a glorious chance to take the lead in the final when Juliano Belletti felled Aruna Dindane prompting referee Chris Foy to point to the penalty spot. Kevin Prince-Boateng tamely struck his penalty down the middle and Petr Cech kept it out. Chelsea, who incredibly hit the woodwork five times in the first half including Salomon Kalou striking the crossbar from two yards out, made them pay for the penalty miss when Didier Drogba dipped a free-kick with side-footed placement through a gap in the wall and past goalkeeper David James. The Blues missed a penalty of their own when Michael Brown clumsily tripped Frank Lampard inside the penalty area although Mr Reliable from twelve yards- Lampard- dragged his spotkick wide of the post. But Carlo Ancelotti's team won.

Manchester City 1-0 Stoke City (2011): The 2011 final was the 130th in the history of the famous competition in which Manchester City ended their long 35 year wait for a piece of silverware by beating Stoke City in their first appearance in the FA Cup Final with a battling and deserved victory against the hard-nailed Potters. Yaya Toure, who was City's hero in the semi-final against Manchester United, powered home sixteen minutes from time past the helpless goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen- who was in sparkling form in the first half saving twice from man of the match Mario Balotelli and then keeping out Carlos Tevez while David Silva squandering a good opportunity. It wasn't particularly entertaining with Stoke disappointing on the whole and unable to replicate the form which saw them sweep aside Bolton Wanderers with a 5-0 romp in the semi-final.


Wembley Stadium
(picture taken from the 2009 FA Vase Final)


Fixture Details:

Saturday 5th May 2012             KO 5:15pm         Coverage- ITV1/HD, ESPN/HD, Sky 3D & BBC Radio 5Live


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