FA Cup focus: Predicting this weekend’s semi-finals

Just four teams remain in the FA Cup — and the semi-finals promise to be full of drama.

Chelsea play Manchester City in the first clash of the round at Wembley, before underdogs Coventry City face 12-time winners Manchester United.

The all-Premier League heavyweight fixture is likely to attract more attention, but Coventry will fancy their chances of securing a memorable upset against Erik ten Hag’s stuttering United.

Ahead of the semi-finals, we’ve delved into Twenty3’s Toolbox to predict the outcome of both matches.

Manchester City vs Chelsea

After easing past Newcastle in the quarter-finals, Manchester City will again be the favourites to progress.

Pep Guardiola’s side are targeting more yet more silverware — although an unprecedented second successive treble is no longer possible after defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have improved of late under Mauricio Pochettino, although they will still be looking towards the FA Cup to rescue what has been a disappointing season.

The Blues have not been entirely convincing up to this stage, scraping past Championship sides Leeds United and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in the previous two rounds.

They will need to raise their game significantly in order to get the better of City.

Both sides have been productive in front of goal in this season’s FA Cup, with the Citizens averaging 3.5 goals per game and Chelsea 2.8.

Crucially, though, City have been almost impermeable defensively. They have allowed their opposition an average of just 0.35 xG per match.

The Premier League champions, predictably, are in the top three for passes completed per game (657) and average 64% possession.

City also boast the firepower of Erling Haaland. He has scored five FA Cup goals in 2023-24 from an xG of just 1.57.

Remarkably, all of those came in a 6-2 win at Luton Town, with four assisted by Kevin De Bruyne.

Axel Disasi could well be the key to stopping Haaland. The Frenchman has been Chelsea’s most consistent defender since the turn of the year.

But the Citizens will fancy their chances of exposing a Blues defence that has let in two or more goals on 16 occasions this season.

Given the attacking quality in Guardiola’s team and Chelsea’s apparent inability to keep clean sheets, it is hard to look past a City win and another final for the Manchester outfit.

Coventry City vs Manchester United

Coventry’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals is a remarkable achievement.

Mark Robins’ unit have recovered from their playoff-final heartbreak last year, shrugging off an early season hangover to again push for promotion from the Championship.

But their FA Cup exploits have taken all the headlines.

A favourable run of fixtures has certainly helped the Sky Blues. They beat League One Oxford United, Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday and sixth-tier Maidstone United en route to the quarter-finals.

But knocking out Wolves at Molineux in the last eight was a stunning result, not least because Coventry found themselves 2-1 down after 88 minutes.

There is no suggestion that the second-tier side will sit back and look to frustrate Manchester United at Wembley.

They are at their best on the front foot. No team in the competition has made more dangerous ball recoveries in the opposition half (35) and Coventry are currently the FA Cup’s leading scorers with 15 goals.

Ellis Simms is their key man, having netted five goals in the FA Cup so far. He scored a hat-trick against Maidstone and a clinical brace against Wolves.

United will need to be wary, then, particularly having struggled against some of the Premier League’s bottom-half teams this season.

Erik ten Hag’s side had an equally dramatic passage through to the last four, with Amad Diallo scoring in the last minute of extra-time to secure a 4-3 win over Liverpool.

As in the Premier League, United have looked susceptible at the back, allowing their opponents an xG of 6.44.

But they have more than enough quality in the final third to hurt the men from the Midlands.

If the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Højlund are on form, the Red Devils should have too much for Coventry.

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