Arsenal v Chelsea


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger may have to shuffle his defence again for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday at Wembley.

Bacary Sagna remains a doubt due to illness and now Keiran Gibbs is also doubtful with a slight groin problem.

Chelsea skipper John Terry returns after serving a suspension.

Deco has been nursing a hamstring injury but Jose Bosingwa is back in training after recovering from his hamstring problem.


Arsenal (from): Fabianski, Eboue, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Arshavin, Song, Fabregas, Walcott, Adebayor, Van Persie, Mannone, Nasri, Diaby, Bendtner, Vela, Eduardo, Denilson, Ramsey.

Chelsea (from): Cech, Hilario, Belletti, Alex, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, Mancienne, A Cole, Lampard, Ballack, Obi, Kalou, Essien, Malouda, Di Santo, Anelka, Quaresma, Stoch, Drogba


Arsene Wenger on Arsenal playing at the redeveloped Wembley for the first time:
“I loved the old Wembley, and I was not too impressed by the new Wembley.

Gunners firing on all cylinders – Wenger

“I was only there was as a spectator at the first FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United.

“Maybe I will have a completely different impression this time, I was only a spectator – I was not behind the scenes in the stadium or on the pitch.”

“Historically as a boy, we always played on bad grounds, so the dream of everybody was to play on the marvellous grass and pitch of Wembley.

“When I heard they had problems with the pitch, that was a big disappointment because you always felt you wanted to play at Wembley as there was something special on the pitch there.

“If that is not there any more, then it is a little bit disappointing.

“I expect a good pitch, but the noises I get are not as convincing as the former pitch. The former pitch was really something special.”

Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda speaking to BBC Football Focus:
“When you look at the history of the FA Cup this is what makes the difference from other countries. The past, the history, you can feel it.

FA Cup is best in the world – Malouda

“People talk about this cup but when you live it it is wonderful and playing at Wembley especially, it is going to be great.

“I won’t think about Arsenal’s cup record against Chelsea before the game because this is the past and I only care about the future. I hoped when I came to Chelsea it was to write history, not to read history.”

BIG-MATCH FACTS

Wembley Stadium plays host to its 10th FA Cup semi-final, as fellow Champions League survivors Arsenal and Chelsea meet for the first time ever at this venue, to decide who will be returning on 30 May to play either Manchester United or Everton, in what will be the fifth ‘north versus south’ FA Cup final in six years.

Normal order has been resumed after last season’s sensational bout of giant-killing feats. The winning club from the first of these two heavyweight contests will be receive £1 million.

Arsenal will be gracing the new Wembley for the first time; Chelsea were there in February 2008, losing to Tottenham in the final of the Carling Cup.

But Chelsea will have to banish over 60 years of misery if they’re to progress. Arsenal have prevailed in each of their last six ties against Chelsea, who have not eliminated the Gunners since Tommy Lawton scored both their goals in a 2-0 third round second replay win at White Hart Lane on 20 January 1947.

The Gunners will be playing their 408th match in the FA Cup; the Blues their 351st. Arsenal have won 214, Chelsea 175 and should they not concede a goal, Arsene Wenger’s club would be keeping their 150th clean sheet in the history of the competition.


The League ladder

Chelsea are one place and six points superior to Arsenal in the Premier League table in third.

Referee

Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

ARSENAL

Current form

Undefeated in seven; won six and drawn one in all competitions since losing 1-0, away to AS Roma in the Champions League on 11 March.

Not lost in 22 domestic fixtures since being ousted from the Carling Cup by Burnley at the quarter-final stage on 2 December.

Recent FA Cup performance

Aiming to reach the final for the first time since 2005, when they won the trophy for the third time in four years.

Have only met Premier League opposition once in this cup run, eliminating Hull in the quarter-finals.

Drawn at home in all the previous rounds, except round four when they had to go to Cardiff City and were taken to a replay for the only occasion.

Their aggregate score is 12-2, and Robin Van Persie is their top scorer with four. He is also the competition’s joint top scorer with Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka.

The Manager

Arsene Wenger has won the trophy with Arsenal four times, one behind the record held by Sir Alex Ferguson. The Frenchman was involved in the first final to feature two managers from outside the British Isles; compatriot Gerard Houllier inspired Liverpool to a 2-1 victory in 2001.

FA Cup fact

Competing in a record-equalling 26th semi-final (as are Manchester United), and aiming to reach the final for the 18th time. That would equal the Red Devils’ record, if Sir Alex Ferguson’s team fail to get through against Everton.

CHELSEA

Current form

Not lost in four; won three and drawn one since the 1-0 Premier League reverse by Tottenham at White Hart Lane on 21 March.

Beaten only once in 14 league and cup matches.

Recent FA Cup performance

Avoided Premier League opposition all the way to the last four.

Only League One Southend took them to a replay, after drawing 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in the third round.

Victory from their third semi-final appearance in four years, would see them reach the final for the ninth time.

Their aggregate score in this cup run is 13-4, and their top scorer is Nicolas Anelka with four, including a hat-trick against Watford in the fifth round.

The Manager

Guus Hiddick won Holland’s equivalent of the FA Cup, the KNVB Cup, four times as coach of PSV Eindhoven.

FA Cup fact

Hoping to lift the trophy for the fifth time in their history and second time in three seasons, after beating Manchester United 1-0, with a Didier Drogba goal in the 116th minute of the first final at the new Wembley on 19 May 2007.

HEAD to HEAD

All competitions

These clubs have been competing against each other since 1907. This will be their 170th meeting, with Arsenal looking for a 70th win and Chelsea a 50th.

The Gunners need to score three times to total 250 goals in competitive matches against their London rivals.

Arsenal have two of the last 13 meetings in all competitions; those victories (one at home and one away) have been in league games since last season.

Their most recent meeting outside the Premier League was in the 2007 Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium, when Didier Drogba scored both in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory, and John Obi Mikel (Chelsea) and Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor (both Arsenal) were all sent off.

FA Cup

This is the 13th time they’ve been paired together in the competition; Arsenal lead by eight wins to four, and are looking to knock the Blues out for the seventh time in a row.

This is the third time they are facing each other in a semi-final and will be the first to be decided at the first time of asking.

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