The 2022-2023 edition of the oldest and most prestigious club competition in England, the FA Cup, is about to reach its climax as the four remaining clubs go head-to-head against each other this weekend. Manchester City face Sheffield United in the first semi-final, whereas Manchester United lock horns with Brighton & Hove Albion in the second semi-final.
All four teams played brilliantly throughout the competition and fully deserve to reach the penultimate stage of the competition. Manchester City and Manchester United are the favorites to progress to the next round and set up an all-Manchester final, but Sheffield United and Brighton & Hove Albion are expected to put up a great fight as both clubs have been performing well in their respective domestic leagues.
Let’s preview both the semifinals as we approach closer to the weekend’s action.
Semifinal #1 – Manchester City vs Sheffield United
Manchester City has been playing outstanding football lately. They brushed past Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League after a clinical display over the two legs. They are expected to do the same against their Championship opponents, Sheffield United.
Manchester City has been ruthless in this year’s FA Cup. Despite facing Chelsea and Arsenal, in the early rounds of the competition, they have made things look quite easy. Pep’s men have scored 13 goals in four games and are yet to concede a goal.
Over the years, Pep Guardiola has won various titles for Manchester City, but FA Cup is the only domestic competition that he has failed to excel. He won the 2018-2019 FA Cup as Manchester City became the first English side to complete a domestic treble. But since then, he has failed to make it to the finals. So, he will be eager to make a menace this time around.
But Manchester City will be wary of their Saturday’s opponents, Sheffield United. The Blades are having a fine season as well. They currently sit in the 2nd spot in the Championship and are destined to be automatically promoted to the Premier League next season.
Sheffield United already have a Premier League scalp to their name, when they defeated Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round of the FA Cup. So, they will be determined to repeat the same feat against City on Saturday afternoon as they look to reach their first FA Cup final since 1936.
Nathan Ake is expected to be unavailable for Manchester City as he limped off against their UCL opponents, Bayern Munich, during the midweek. He has a hamstring which is expected to take some time to recover.
Stefan Ortega is expected to replace Ederson in goal for City, as he has done for the majority of the competition. Furthermore, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez are expected to be in the starting eleven, as Pep Guardiola is expected to rest some key players as his side takes on league leaders, Arsenal, in the next week.
Sheffield United will be without their two key players, James McAtee and Tommy Doyle. Both have been a vital part of the Blades’ midfield. But since they are on loan from Manchester City, they will not be able to feature against their parent club.
Semifinal #2 – Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United
Manchester United has won the FA Cup eight times in its history but has failed to lift the title since 2016. The draws for this year’s FA Cup have been kind to them. The Red Devils have enjoyed home comfort in all the ties of the competition. And have won all the ties with the same scoreline of 3-1.
After trying their luck with various managers over the years, Manchester United finally seems to have found the right man for the job, with Erik Ten Hag living up to the expectations up till now. Erik has already won the League Cup with United and is on course to secure a top-four finish in the league as well. The Red Devils are expected to overcome the challenge of Brighton and set up an exciting all-Manchester final on 3rd June 2023.
But their midweek display against Sevilla, in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals, is going to give some hope to Brighton as they look to reach only their second FA Cup final. Although Manchester United have got a well-drilled squad, Brighton is no pushover as they have proven this season. The Seagulls are flying high in the Premier League and have defeated the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United in the league.
Roberto De Zerbi’s men have scored 13 goals in the competition so far. The highlight of their impressive run was their performance against Liverpool in the fourth round. The Seagulls scored a dramatic 92nd-minute winner to knock out the defending champions from this year’s competition. De Zerbi will be hoping that his side can take some inspiration from that game and bring their A-game against Manchester United.
Manchester United will be heading into Sunday’s game without the services of their star defenders, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez. Both have been phenomenal for Red Devils in defense, but unfortunately, they will not be featuring for United this season anymore. Garnacho is another United player who is facing a lengthy period on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford are both expected to be in the starting eleven after returning from injuries in the midweek loss to Sevilla. Both came on at the start of the second half and got some vital playing minutes under their belt.
Both Joel Veltman and Evan Ferguson have been ruled out of Brighton’s clash with United. Veltman has been an ever-present in Brighton’s defense while Ferguson is the leading goal scorer for the Seagulls in the Premier League. So, their absence is surely going to hamper Seagulls’ chances of progression.
Teen sensation, Julio Enciso, is expected to lead the line for Brighton after scoring the winner in Brighton’s 2-1 victory against Chelsea in the Premier League.
What does history say about an all-Manchester final?
Manchester United and Manchester City are one of the powerhouses of English football and have a fierce rivalry with each other. Both Manchester clubs have locked horns 21 times in knockout competitions, with United having a superior head-to-head record. But they have never faced off in a domestic or continental final before. So, an all-Manchester final in this year’s FA Cup is truly going to be a great spectacle for football fans around the world.