Following another fascinating round of FA Cup action, the draw for the quarter final threw up a number of mouthwatering ties, none more so than Chelsea being matched up against defending champions Manchester United. While Jose Mourinho’s men had to come from behind to beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1, Chelsea continued their impressive Premier League form by dispatching of Championship side Wolves 2-0. The two clubs, who between them have won the FA Cup on 19 occasions, will now meet in the most eye-catching clash of the quarter finals.
For United, this tournament may well be Mourinho’s main focus this season, aside from securing a top four finish and a return to the Champions League. While this season might not have gone exactly to plan for United, they are still competing for honors on three fronts. As well as reaching the quarter finals of the FA Cup and the League Cup Final, the club are edging closer to the quarter-finals in the Europa League. A return to the Champions League might well be top priority for Mourinho, he will be well aware that winning at least one piece of silverware would help him claim his first season in charge as been a success.
Chelsea, meanwhile, appear to have benefited from not having any European football this season. Currently sitting top of the Premier League table, eight points ahead of their nearest rivals, Antonio Conte is in a strong position to deliver a league title at the first time of asking. With FA Cup odds of around 4/1, Chelsea may have been hoping for a slightly easier draw for the quarter finals considering the likes of Lincoln, Millwall and Huddersfield are still in the competition. That said, beating United at this stage would give the Blues a huge boost in their bid to do a domestic double this season.
Despite the opinion that the FA Cup has lost some of the prestige over the years, that won’t be a view taken by either Conte or Mourinho when they meet at Stamford Bridge on March 11. Both clubs will be determined to end the season lifting the FA Cup trophy, something that will become a lot more achievable without their quarter final opponents still in the competition. While the United chief drop a few of his stars to the bench for their victory over Blackburn, Conte’s made his feelings about the tournament clear, playing a strong team against Wolves.
With only domestic matters to focus on, Chelsea have really taken advantage of the rest of their rivals having to compete in European competitions. That said, it has placed even more importance of the likes of the FA Cup, which the Italian coach will be desperate to deliver to an owner who doesn’t always need a valid reason to change his managers. Having chased Mourinho for so long, it’s unlikely United would dispense of their manager if he failed to win this season’s FA Cup. But for a man so obsessed with winning, it’s hard to imagine the Portuguese coach would be happy with his first 12 months as United’s boss if he didn’t have one piece of silverware to his name.