One of the oldest standing competitions in professional sports is set for this Saturday (11:15AM PDT) when Wembley Stadium hosts the FA Cup Final of Chelsea v. Liverpool. These two teams have battled past six rounds of qualifying play, five rounds of proper play, quarterfinals, and semifinals since November of last year to reach this one-legged championship. Through much adversity in the final months of the Premier League, both Chelsea and Liverpool have fallen out of Title contention, but expect both teams to come out guns-blazing for the FA Cup final.
The unique format of the FA Cup featuring single-elimination with no seeds, completely random drawings, and replay rules makes it one for tradition and always exciting. Teams from all levels of English Association Football are invited to play, with top Premier League teams rarely missing out. Up until the 1990s, draws would require a mandatory replay until a team won outright. Now though, first replays are decided by extra time and if tied still, by penalty shootout. However, replays are no longer held for the semifinals or final match.
One of the long-standing aspects of the FA Cup is that lower-ranked teams upset opponents from a higher division. Making for newsworthy debacles, it’s always fun to watch a top-rated Premier League team fall to a lower team, unless, of course, they happen to be your team.
Due to the unpredictable schedule of the FA Cup tournament, only a handful of clubs have ever complete a League & Cup Double, by winning the League Cup and the FA Cup. Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have all made impressive runs, but none compare to Manchester United’s three doubles in one decade (1990s) to highlight their dominance in the modern era. And only three clubs have ever won consecutive FA cups, Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, and Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has proclaimed the importance of Cups like the FA and the Carling Cup, while most of the league seems preoccupied with the Premier League title race. Liverpool, who came away with a victory in February against Cardiff City in the Carling Cup Final on penalties, looks to attack a lively Chelsea squad that has come off a streak of late after a mid-season slump that lead to the firing of Andre Villas-Boas. While Chelsea gets a break from the stresses of the UEFA Champions League Final in a few weeks, their fans will revel in this game to reclaim some clout.