Manchester City and holder Chelsea will both seek to transform underwhelming domestic seasons when the two Premier League heavyweights clash in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
As an added incentive, the other semifinal features second-tier Millwall and perennial Premier League relegation candidate Wigan Athletic, so whoever emerges victorious on Sunday will be overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez and his City counterpart Roberto Mancini, meanwhile, would each dearly love to end difficult seasons by winning the FA Cup for a second time. City won 2-0 when the sides last met, at the Etihad Stadium in late February.
City goes into the game buoyed by its 2-1 victory at derby rival United in the Premier League on Monday, although the leader’s advantage remains an imposing 12 points.
That inability to remain in United’s slipstream has put pressure on Mancini, but his side is still on course to collect a major trophy for the third season in succession.
City’s victory over Stoke City in the 2011 FA Cup final ended a 35-year trophy drought and Mancini is looking forward to returning to the scene of that watershed success.
Mancini says he will give David Silva until the day of the game to prove his fitness, after the Spanish midfielder sustained a hamstring injury in Monday’s win at United.
England international defenders Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill remain sidelined through injury.
Chelsea will be defending a formidable record at the stadium, having won all seven of the games it has played in the competition beneath the Wembley arch since the stadium re-opened in 2007.
City, though, is yet to let in a goal in the competition and is bidding to become the first team to reach the final without conceding since Everton in 1966. — AFP