Champions League

Bernardo Silva puts penalty trauma behind him to save Man City’s double hopes at Chelsea’s expense

Bernardo Silva puts penalty trauma behind him to save Man City’s double hopes at Chelsea’s expense

Bernardo Silva celebrates his late strike that sent Manchester City into the FA Cup final – Getty Images/Rob Newell

Bernardo Silva may have spent some dark nights of the soul since Wednesday evening replaying that infamous penalty to nowhere on repeat in his mind, although football always offers its favourite sons a second chance sooner than expected.

It might have been 24 hours too early for a fulminating Pep Guardiola, but Manchester City followed Champions League quarter-final shoot-out defeat by Real Madrid with a different flavour of Cup win three days later. They won this FA Cup semi-final, not by dominating their opponent but, rather as Real had done three days earlier, hanging in through the difficult moments and then striking when opportunity presented itself.

Bernardo, who had wafted the biggest penalty of his life into the gloves of Real’s goalkeeper Andriy Lunin in Wednesday’s shoot-out, scored on 84 minutes of a tie Chelsea should have won. Guardiola would later embark on a diatribe on the scheduling of the game which was part outrage, part glorious fit of pique. At one point he vowed never to do another favour for the corporation, although stopped short of a full Sir Alex Ferguson-style BBC boycott.

Guardiola said his club should have played their semi-final on Sunday by virtue of their midweek game. For his erstwhile European champions, and Bernardo in particular, it seemed like something of a balm to win this game in the way they did.

This was a tired Guardiola team playing from memory of the old passing patterns and territorial gains, but much more vulnerable than usual. If Real had shown the way to exploit the space in behind City’s defence then Chelsea followed by example, although it will be much to Mauricio Pochettino’s regret that he does not have a goalscorer like those available at the Bernabeu.

A deflected cross to the feet of Bernardo whose shot, also deflected, means that City have a place in the FA Cup final as well as the advantage in the Premier League title race. The domestic double was once something to be prized, although it seems to matter less these days – or at least since trebles became a possibility. It always required an effort beyond the ordinary and that is what City expended. They found a way to win.

Guardiola was naturally emotional and in that state he was keen to make a point about football’s packed schedule. He expanded it to include Fifa’s Club World Cup and Uefa too, presumably with its super-sized Champions League competition next season in mind. He is not the only manager to have misgivings about the state of the calendar.

Unfortunately, for them it is driven by the clubs who not only do not resist but are an active part of the European Club Association which has an agreement with both governing bodies and agrees competition format and the division of the spoils. Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, is an executive board member of the ECA, and will surely be able to raise Guardiola’s concerns.

There was no Erling Haaland in the City line-up, still carrying the injury that meant he did not play extra-time on Wednesday. John Stones could be seen retching on the pitch during the first half and did not come out for the second.

As for Chelsea, this was an opportunity that passed them by. Pochettino would later confront referee Michael Oliver about a strong claim for a penalty when Jack Grealish appeared to raise a hand in the defensive wall facing a free-kick on 55 minutes. By the end of the game the anger seemed to have subsided and Pochettino did not make an issue of it.

The Chelsea manager will also no doubt linger on the many chances that fell the way of his striker Nicolas Jackson. The young Senegalese striker is an elegant runner in behind defences but he seems to be trying to finish in a foreign language.

This had been a Chelsea performance that might yet have proved a turning point for their season. Cole Palmer had his moments in the game, without ever quite dominating it as he might, and most crucially the chances just passed Chelsea by. Tired and frustrated, City’s usual suspects seemed to realise that Chelsea would not take their chance. True to form it was Kevin De Bruyne, after a mediocre game, who provided the assist for Bernardo’s goal.

Jackson had gone through on goal for the first time on 29 minutes, from Enzo Fernandez’s throughball, and could not finish. After half-time he would do the same from Conor Gallagher’s pass and then fail to connect cleanly with a back-post header that Palmer served up for him. Again on 61 minutes Jackson was through, from Noni Madueke’s pass and Kyle Walker ran the striker off the ball. These were the moments that had to be seized.

Palmer had shone in brief spells. He made the ball as good as disappear under the nose of Rodri, in the first half, wriggled past the City midfielder and then tried to shape a shot around Stefan Ortega.

In the second half, Moises Caicedo would unexpectedly break through in the left channel and, with Palmer demanding the ball in the centre, the Chelsea midfielder just did not have the guile to find him.

It was Caicedo who caught Grealish on the follow-through having first struck the ball, and which saw the Englishman substituted furious at all officials. Caicedo had been booked already. By then Grealish had escaped without the handball being punished.

Then, in the closing stages, came the goal – Manuel Akanji to De Bruyne and the ball deflected to Bernardo in space. Even his shot flicked off Marc Cucurella on its way in.

Tired, according to their manager, and far from their best – but still very hard to beat.

Man City make wasteful Chelsea pay: As it happened…

07:33 PM BST

An angry Pep Guardiola hits out at only having two days to prepare for this match

On having to play today instead of tomorrow…

“It’s unacceptable, it’s unacceptable…for the health of the players, it’s not normal, it’s not normal. It’s unacceptable. I don’t understand how we survived today…[Me compaining] won’t change anything, why you don’t play tomorrow instead of Manchester United and Coventry who didn’t have a midweek match? It’s impossible [to recover]. I know it’s this country, [the FA Cup] is special, but it’s for the health of the players. I don’t understand how we survived today. [The Real Madrid match] was mentally so, so tough. These guys are legends. I don’t understand how they survive.”

07:26 PM BST

Pep looks happy

This is what another FA Cup final means to the Man City manager – Getty Images/Alex Pantling

07:22 PM BST

Bernardo Silva speaks to the BBC – ‘We showed a lot of character’

On the emotions in the side…

“Very happy after frustrating week for all of us. Good thing is that at Man City you play every three days and we had a chance of revenge, we now have a chance of another trophy”

On his winning goal…

“It was a typical Kevin de Bruyne run, Jeremy [Doku] found him well. I was lucky the ball [fell to me].”

On making the FA Cup final…

“The way this team reacts [is great] we showed a lot of character, we’re very happy to be back at Wembley.”

07:15 PM BST

Unwanted stat for Chelsea

That is now 10 of 13 matches at the new Wembley that they have lost. Not a happy hunting ground.

07:14 PM BST

FULL-TIME: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

It wasn’t classic Man City but they show character to eke out this 1-0 win, when all the good chances went the way of Chelsea. The west Londoners only have themselves to blame.

07:13 PM BST

97 mins: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Not much time left for Chelsea…Chilwell finds Mudryk and the Chelsea man wins a free-kick just outside the box.

This really is their last chance…and it’s a hopeless ball from Mudryk that beats everyone in the box, sailing over the byline for a goal kick. That sort of sums up their game in the final third.

07:11 PM BST

95 mins: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Free-kick to Chelsea in the City half. One last chance to get the equaliser…

It’s delivered into the box, Chalobah wins the header but City win the second ball and clear the danger.

07:07 PM BST

93 mins: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Chelsea need the ball, alas for them City are playing keep-ball at the moment.

07:06 PM BST

90 mins: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

There will be eight minutes of added time – eight minutes for Chelsea to stay in the FA Cup.

07:06 PM BST

89 mins: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Chilwell is free on the left, but as with this whole game the final ball is poor, oh so poor. And City intercept. Chelsea have had the better chances and should have scored at least one today. Their lack of cutting edge will, as it stands, cost them today.

07:04 PM BST

87 mins: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Changes…

For City: Alvarez off for Oscar Bobb

For Chelsea: Sterling and Chilwell on, Cucurella and Fernandez off.

06:59 PM BST

GOAL!

Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Bernardo Silva breaks the deadlock. City have seen more of the ball these past 10 minutes and the pressure has finally told. De Bruyne makes a lovely run in the inside-left channel in the box, he’s found by Doku before pulling the ball back. Petrovic gets his feet to it but that only deflects the ball into the path of Bernardo and his first-time shot finds the back of the net.

Bernardo

06:58 PM BST

Keith Hackett on the two controversial decisions this half

On the Grealish handball incident …

“I believe that Michael Oliver should have visited the monitor to review this decision. The question the referee must ask is was the defenders actions deliberate and did he make his body shape bigger. The decision is subjective and by going to the screen and saying no would reinforce the call.”

On the Caicedo challenge that forced Grealish off, when already on a yellow card…

“The challenge on Grealish which effectively put him out of the game was one that referees need to outlaw with a red card. Michael Oliver’s approach in this game is that he has set a high threshold and tolerance level to keep 22 players on the pitch.”

06:57 PM BST

82 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

City have the ball on the left, they’re passing is around but, as with so much of this match, lack cutting edge. It’s very much ‘after you, Claude’ as Doku and De Bruyne both decline the chance to put the ball into the box. They’ve been overworking it a bit too much today.

06:54 PM BST

80 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Ten minutes to go, can one of these sides force a winner before extra-time?

06:54 PM BST

77 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Changes for Chelsea as Madueke and Gusto make way for Mudryk and Disasi.

06:53 PM BST

75 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Corner for Chelsea after good work from Cucurella and Gusto. Can they create something from this? As I type that City’s goalkeeper Ortega is down…After a while City man gets up and he’s not forced into a save as Gallagher’s ball is headed clear.

06:47 PM BST

71 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Corner for City who, as it stands, are looking at another 120-minute match in less than a week. There’s a push in the box and it’s a free-kick for Chelsea as a result.

06:45 PM BST

69 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Chance this time for City as Doku shoots low forcing Petrovic into a save with his feet.

Moments later the ball comes in from the left, Alvarez setting up De Bruyne whose shot is wide of the mark.

This is building up to a grandstand finish.

06:43 PM BST

67 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Another good opportunity for Chelsea goes astray…Palmer plays in Caicedo who, in the inside-right channel, delivers a poor ball that’s way too long for Jackson in the middle.

They’ve had their chances and this errors in the final third could come back to haunt them.

06:41 PM BST

64 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

After a break Grealish has to come off, replaced by Doku. It’s clear the City man isn’t happy and it looks as though he’s having a go at the fourth official Darren England. He, quite possibly, feels Caicedo should have been shown a card for that challenge that’s ended his match.

Everything feels better after a hug…Grealish is consoled by Guardiola – Getty Images/Michael Regan

06:39 PM BST

62 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Grealish has looked City’s best player today which is why they might be worried to see their forward go down after what looks like an overzealous challenge from Caicedo who seems to win the ball but then catches the City man with the follow through.

Ouch! Caicedo follows through on Grealish’s shin/knee – Shutterstock/Neil Hall

06:37 PM BST

At a minimum it was a corner…

I don’t get it. Cole Palmer’s free-kick deflects off Jack Grealish and out for a corner. There was a Var check to determine if Grealish had handled – and the City midfielder does appear to move his left hand down towards the ball. Pochettino had a perfect view of the incident from the touchline and he had his arms up in the air straight away crying “penalty”. Whether it was a penalty or not, what was clear was that the last touch came off Grealish and at a minimum it should have been a corner. Palmer was protesting to referee Michael Oliver in disbelief.

Corner, penalty, or goal kick? – Getty Image/Alex Pantling

06:36 PM BST

58 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Grealish drives at the Chelsea box before hammering a shot that is blocked well by Chalobah.

The ball then goes up the other end of the pitch and Jackson falls under the challenge of Walker. No penalty is given my Michael Oliver, and the replay backs the ref up.

06:33 PM BST

Another pic of Jackson’s poor header

Jackson surely should have buried this chance – Reuters/David Klein

06:32 PM BST

54 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Chelsea appeal for a handball as Cole Palmer’s free-kick glances Grealish’s hand on the way to going wide of the right upright. There is a check but the onfield decision of ‘nothing to see there’ stands. In fact not only is there not a penalty, there isn’t a corner, which considering it did hit the arm (handball or not) is slightly weird…

06:29 PM BST

52 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

This semi-final is simmering now, Grealish plays a lovely pass to Foden who lets fly from distance forcing Petrovic into a good low save to his right. That’s City’s first shot on target.

06:27 PM BST

50 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Two HUGE chances for Jackson in a matter of seconds (so HUGE that caps lock is definitely required…). The first opportunity to find the back of the net comes after good work from Gallagher on the left, the Senegal international tries to find the bottom corner and forces Ortega into a good save. The ball goes the right and Palmer floats in a lovely cross that, from only three yards or so out, Jackson must head past the keeper, BUT again it looks half-hearted and Ortega saves well.

Will those chances come back to haunt Jackson and Chelsea?

Jackson’s timid header was saved by Ortega – AP/Ian Walton

06:23 PM BST

48 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Good start to the half from Chelsea who are seeing plenty of the ball and keeping City on the back foot.

06:22 PM BST

47 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

First chance of the half goes the way of Chelsea and it’s sloppy from City as Ortega is forced into a poor kick from a back pass. It falls at the feet of Madueke who then cuts inside and fires a shot that’s high, wide, and not so handsome.

06:20 PM BST

45 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

They’re back under way in north west London. Can City find their mojo?

One change from Pep, Stones makes way for Dias.

06:06 PM BST

City’s main men not at their best

Jackson hit the ground as the whistle went for half-time he knows he should have given Chelsea the lead. City – and especially Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne have not been at their best but you sense better will come from them.

City did not register a single shot on target during the first half – that can’t have happened too often this season.

06:05 PM BST

HALF-TIME: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Good first-half that. Think Pochettino will be the happier of the two managers. Chelsea have shown they can get to City and have had the better of the match so far. No shots on target for City yet…that’s partly down to Chelsea’s defending, they’ve looked solid and you could argue they should be in front.

06:02 PM BST

45 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

There will be two minutes of added time.

06:01 PM BST

Chelsea have shown they can get at City

You don’t see Rodri easily beaten very often but Cole Palmer did the Manchester City midfielder there with a gorgeous little turn in the tightest space to open up the chance to shoot. The shot lacked the precision and power, Palmer hitting it a lot too straight, but Chelsea have shown they can get at City. The best chance of the half fell to Nicolas Jackson, through one on one and you really need to be taking those opportunities against this City team. The Cup holders look a little fatigued. Big game in midweek and plenty of the starters from that are out there and haven’t found their stride yet.

06:00 PM BST

42 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Free-kick for Man City in the final third – it’s 30 yards out and Foden and De Bruyne are standing over it. It’s the England man who takes it but it’s a poor delivery which goes out for a goal kick.

05:59 PM BST

40 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Foden and De Bruyne exchange passes on the edge of the box but for once Foden isn’t on the same wavelength as his Belgian team-mate and Chelsea intercept well.

05:56 PM BST

Space for Chelsea

Chelsea are finding space behind City. That was a lovely touch from Palmer to get round Rodri before shooting. Rodri has looked leggy so far in this half.

05:54 PM BST

37 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Lovely stuff from Palmer. He’s at his best here as he cuts back leaving Rodri for dead in the box before opening his body and sidefooting a cute shot that is well saved by Ortega. He is a fine player and is reminding his former team-mates of that very fact this afternoon.

Cole Palmer

05:52 PM BST

35 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Great defending from Stones as he blocks a Madueke shot. Chelsea have looked lively in attack and they create another decent chance here as first Jackson, then Madueke create havoc in the City box, the latter of which gets a low shot away that Stones does brilliantly to get in the way of.

05:51 PM BST

33 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Bernardo Silva tries to curl one into the top corner – hopeful – it goes well wide. He’s a good enough player to attempt that worldy, however…

05:50 PM BST

Chalobah proves the old guard can still mix it with the best

Trevoh Chalobah has just made a great challenge on Kevin De Bruyne. Ironic that Chelsea’s two centre-backs today, Chalobah and Thiago Silva, are both likely to leave at the end of the season while Benoit Badiashile and Axel Disasi, signed by the new regime, are on the substitutes’ bench.

05:47 PM BST

29 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Great chance for Jackson who is played in on goal by Fernandez – just one pass is enough to beat the City backline. Jackson is one-on-one with Ortega and rounds him but cannot get a shot away as he’s taken himself too far wide. He’s forced to pass it back to a team-mate and the chance to get a shot on goal disappears into the ether. Jackson was in his own half when the ball was made and so the flag stayed down, much to John Stones’ annoyance.

Jackson

05:45 PM BST

27 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Lovely floated ball from the left by Grealish finds Bernardo Silva who you think will definitely score, but he makes a hash of it at the back post and the ball falls into the arms of a grateful Petrovic. It wouldn’t have counted had it gone in, however, as Alvarez was deemed offside.

05:43 PM BST

26 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

City haven’t looked at their sharpish yet, they are not pinging the ball around with the fizz they usually do. That’s quite possibly due to the fact they did have an extra-time to deal with against Real on Wednesday…

05:41 PM BST

24 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Cole Palmer nearly finds Caicedo on the left but Walker intercepts well. Think Pochettino will be delighted with how his side has started, Chelsea have looked solid so far at the back and look threatening when on the attack.

05:39 PM BST

22 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Still City with more of the ball, Grealish finds Alvarez in the box but he cannot get a shot away.

05:37 PM BST

19 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Great feet from Alavarez in the Chelsea box as he cuts back sending the opposition defenders one way while he goes the other (almost a la Barry John in the 1971 Lions Test against the All Blacks…) before firing in a left-foot shot. Alas it comes off De Bruyne who is offside. Think a goal is coming soon…

05:35 PM BST

16 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Jackson fizzes in a cross from the left after he drives into the box. He was positive, taking on his man before getting to the byline and getting a ball to the back post where a team-mate should have been attacking.

It’s been a good game so far.

05:33 PM BST

14 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

De Bruyne is quite good, example No. 2692746293875629034 as the Belgian threads the ball through the eye of a needle, taking three Chelsea players out in the process, for Foden. The England man is one-on-one with Petrovic and tries to round the goalkeeper. HE very nearly does but Petrovic gets a vital touch that prevents Foden from getting in a shot, a cross that is well defended is the upshot of that wonderful De Bruyne pass.

Foden is sent wide by Petrovic – Getty Images/Marc Atkins

05:30 PM BST

12 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

A slip from Walker allows Gallagher to scamper towards the City box, the ultimate outcome is another Chelsea corner. Can they create something from this?

No, they cannot as Gallagher’s delivery fails to beat the man at the near post, criminal as some coaches would say.

05:28 PM BST

10 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

One corner is swiftly followed by another, this one for City. It goes short and Alvarez’s cross to the back post is met by Rodri whose header is timid and easily collected by Petrovic.

It’s been a lively enough start.

Cucurella is challenged by Walker – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

05:26 PM BST

9 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

First corner goes to Chelsea after good work by Madueke. Gallagher takes it from the right, it’s deep for Thiago Silva, but the Brazilian can’t get much of a head on it and City can clear their lines.

05:24 PM BST

7 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

First shot on goal for Chelsea as Gallagher snaps at the heels of Kyle Walker, wining the ball before feeding Jackson whose shot is easily saved by Ortega.

05:22 PM BST

5 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Most of the football is taking place in the Chelsea half, City are on the front foot early on. They’re passing it around well, moving from one flank to the other, patient in the process. But the move comes to an end thanks to the intervention of Madueke.

05:20 PM BST

Gallagher on the left

Pochettino has made a tactical tweak today – starting Conor Gallagher on the left of the front three behind Nicolas Jackson. Gallagher has previously started as Chelsea’s No.10, but that role has now gone to Cole Palmer.

05:19 PM BST

2 mins: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

Chelsea haven’t beaten City since they won in the Champions League final three years ago…time to put an end to that run? It’s the west Londoners with the ball early on, and as I type they give it away in their half and Alvarez is nearly onto it. Thiago Silva does well to clean up after Cucurella horrid hospital pass.

05:16 PM BST

1 min: Man City 0 Chelsea 0

They’re under way at Wembley, City are in their traditional sky blue shirt and Chelsea in their royal blue number. Not a garish away kit in sight, phew…

05:12 PM BST

The teams are out on the hallowed turf

And we’re moments away from kick-off.

05:05 PM BST

Getting ready

Chelsea players warm up ahead of the match – Getty Images/Justin Setterfield

Can Cole Palmer continue his fine form and fire Chelsea to the final? – Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

05:00 PM BST

More on the scrapping of replays

Oliver Brown wrote…

It is at this point that you ask whether football understands the price of everything and the value of nothing. The poor, neglected FA Cup has suffered so many indignities over the past 25 years, from Manchester United’s decision to swerve it altogether for the 2000 Fifa Club World Championship to the soulless move to hold both semi-finals at Wembley just to help recoup the cost of the stadium’s rebuild. Now that the latest revamp mandates the wholesale scrapping of replays, it resembles more of a ravaged husk than ever.

READ: English football traditions are being vanquished and for what?

04:48 PM BST

Mauricio Pochettino speaks to the BBC – ‘ We have the belief to win today’

On trying to get to the FA Cup final…

“It could be amazing. It could be really nice to beat Manchester City. We’re not thinking in this way now, we’re thinking about how to perform.”

On what Chelsea need to do to beat Man City…

“We need to work really hard and perform really well. They’re a top-class team but we have the belief and confidence…They’re going to try to start the game well and forget the Champions League defeat. We need to know this type of team know how to deal with the pressure. We don’t think about what they did in midweek. We need to do our game and do what we want if we want to be close to winning.”

On Cole Palmer’s fine form…

“For him it’s more about the performance and helping the team to win. He’s so grateful to Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. For him it’s another game. He’s focused on trying to help the team.”

04:44 PM BST

Pep Guardiola speaks to the BBC – ‘I was not disappointed by defeat to Real’

On the Real Madrid defeat…

“I was not disappointed. When a team play that well you never feel disappointed. It’s football, it’s life.”

On why Haaland misses out…

“He’s injured. I don’t think it’s much but he’s not able for today. I don’t know [if he will be back for the next game].”

On today’s opponents…

“Top team. Quality. Physicality. They are built to arrive in these stages.”

04:34 PM BST

Those teams in old fashioned black and white

MAN CITY XI TO FACE CHELSEA: Ortega, Walker, Akanji, Ake, Stones, Rodri, Foden, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Grealish, Alvarez. Subs: Ederson, Dias, Kovacic, Doku, Gomez, Gvardiol, Nunes, Bobb, Lewis.

The big news is that Erling Haaland misses out through injury as Pep Gaurdiola makes four changes to the side dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.

Stefan Ortega comes in for Ederson in goal while Nathan Ake and John Stones replace Ruben Dias and Josko Gvardiol in defence.

Haaland won’t feature today – Getty Images/Marc Atkins

CHELSEA XI TO FACE MAN CITY: Petrovic, Gusto, Chalobah, Silva, Cucurella, Caicedo, Gallagher, Madueke, Palmer, Fernandez, Jackson. Subs: Bettinelli, Badiashile, Disasi, Gilchrist, Chilwell, Chukwuemeka, Mudryk, Sterling, Washington.

Just the one change for Chelsea – Mykhailo Mudryk drops to the bench with Enzo Fernandez taking his place.

Enzo Fernandez is back for Chelsea – Getty Images/Robbie Jay Barratt

04:16 PM BST

Here be Manchester City

04:15 PM BST

Here’s the Chelsea XI

04:09 PM BST

The dreaded half-and-half scarf

Some football fans consider this sort of behaviour worse than treason…

A Man City fan with a half-and-half scarf – Getty Images/Justin Setterfield

To even things out, a Chelsea fan with a half-and-half scarf – Getty Images/Justin Setterfield

04:03 PM BST

I always find these pre-match club tweets…

…amusingly bland.

03:56 PM BST

The semi-final of the Afterthought Cup

Ah, the magic of the FA Cup. When two clubs with stacks of cash meet in the semi-final of a competition they don’t care about until this stage having got their way to see replays ended.

That may well be a fairly cynical take but one, I imagine, that many across the country share. One of the season’s showpieces – the semi-finals at Wembley (I still wish they were held elsewhere) – takes place against the back drop of what many perceive to be a move that further damages the FA Cup’s fabled status as a must-win trophy. There will no longer be replays something that in the words of my colleague Oliver Brown “satisfies  the Premier League”, but in the process “sullies football’s crown jewels and turns the FA Cup into an afterthought”.

“The four Premier League titans poised to qualify for next season’s engorged Champions League group phase, and who now regard the world’s oldest cup competition as such a trivial distraction that even the final stands to lose its status, from next season, as the last game in the domestic calendar.”

For years the famous competition has been devalued and this latest move simply confirms what many fans already know, that money trumps everything in the sport, one for which the phrase “They know the price of everything and the value of nothing” could well have been created for.

Before the match the players and managers will doubtlessly pay lip service to the idea that they still really care about the FA Cup, but actions speak louder than words and so the very least Manchester City and Chelsea could do today is put on a humdinger of a contest. It’s all I ask…

City come into the match on the back of being knocked out of the competition they definitely do care about, dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid. Chelsea, whisper it, are on the up. They are now unexpectedly challenging for a European spot and come into the clash on the back of a 6-0 win over hapless Everton.

Stay here for all the action and team news, with kick-off set for 5.15.

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