The final four for the English FA Cup has taken shape after this past weekend’s fixtures. Over Saturday and Sunday, Spurs eased past Swansea 3-0, United beat Brighton 2-0, Chelsea squeaked past Leicester 2-1, and Southampton dispatched Wigan 2-0 to confirm themselves as the tournament’s semi-finalists.
Hours after the last quarterfinal round games were completed, the draw for the penultimate group of matches commenced. The all-Premier League semifinal round will offer us Chelsea vs. Southampton on one side of the bracket and United vs. Spurs on the other.
Now that we’re down to the business end, and only top-quality teams remain, how can Spurs ensure they win it all?
The elephant in the room—Kane’s FA Cup return
I have to say, I was a bit surprised with how easily Spurs swatted aside a resurgent Swansea on Saturday. A good friend of mine is a die-hard Swans fan and was talking up their chances pre-match. In his defense, he had good reason to be confident. Since new manager Carlos Carvalhal took over in late December, Swansea had only lost twice and can count both Liverpool and Arsenal among their collection of topside scalps.
But Spurs were just on another level on Saturday, with Eriksen and Lamela, in particular, grabbing the game by the proverbial spherical organs and demolishing a hesitant Swansea defense. Even Moussa Sissoko looked somewhat competent for most of the match, which is as damning an indictment of Swansea’s defensive indifference as I could possibly conjure up.
That said, our quest for the cup is going to get significantly more complicated now that we’ve reached the semis. Manchester United as the first obstacle is bad enough, but when you factor in that Chelsea will likely await us in the final, it becomes an even more daunting task. Fortunately for us, though, we’re highly likely to have Harry Kane back by the time April 21st rolls around. With Kane’s return to the team, I like our chances against pretty much anyone.
United—the tougher of our two rivals
In terms of Premier League form, it’s easy for me to decide between United and Chelsea regarding which side will pose more of a problem in the FA Cup. José’s squad have been the stronger side most of the season, evidenced by their almost 10 point advantage over the Blues in the league standings. United also bested Chelsea 2-1 in their last league meeting. With all this in mind, the semi with the Red Devils looks to be the more perilous match for Spurs to navigate. Honestly, I could even see Chelsea failing to get past Southampton with how hot-and-cold their form has been in recent weeks.
Last time Spurs and United met, Poch got the better of Mourinho tactically and we cruised to a 2-0 victory. I highly doubt it’ll be so simple to beat them in the late stages of an FA Cup competition, though. Let’s face facts…United have far greater experience playing in these big matches than we do and won’t be phased by the occasion. Mourinho is also a fast learner and won’t be fooled by the same tactical approach twice. It’ll take a mature, measured performance from our players, and an inspired game plan from the manager, to overcome a squad that is quite accustomed to winning these kinds of important games.
If we can knock-off United and reach the final, though, the momentum will be firmly in our camp—regardless of who wins the other game. I’d prefer to play Chelsea, actually, as beating them would be sweeter than overcoming Southampton. Plus, there’d be little shame in losing to them if we failed to go the distance. Imagine if we lost the final to Southampton? I can practically see the “Spursy” memes already…
Ruthlessness—the key to semifinal success
Spurs boast an impressive complement of attacking options with which to batter United’s back line. Son, Lamela, Eriksen, and the (hopefully) fit Kane are all in great form and are sure to cause problems. Even Dele, who I’ve been quite critical of this season, seems to be finding his feet a bit of late. On the face of it, we shouldn’t exactly struggle to score, should we?
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this team be completely wasteful in front of goal many, many times this season. Our lack of a cutting edge has even cost us matches we largely dominated (our recent loss to Juve in the Champions League springs to mind). There will be no room for such complacency in the last rounds of the FA Cup, especially against a team like United. The Devils will be well-drilled and may only afford us a few clear-cut chances all game. To beat José’s men, we’ve got to finish. Simple as that.