Thu | Jun 22, 2017

Big test for Chelsea

Published:Friday | April 21, 2017 | 4:19 AM
Chelsea's manager, Antonio Conte.

MANCHESTER, England (AP):

They can't keep a clean sheet. Their striker has stopped scoring. Their opponents have worked out how to stifle them.

The Chelsea juggernaut might just be starting to slow, just when English football's major trophies are about to be decided.

Chelsea and Tottenham park their battle for the Premier League title for one weekend when they meet at Wembley Stadium tomorrow for the first of two blockbuster semi-finals in the FA Cup.

There's no doubt which of the two teams has the momentum.

In the white corner, there's Spurs, the form team in the country with eight straight wins in all competitions, during which they've scored 28 goals. They have the meanest defence around and arguably the hottest striker in Harry Kane.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are still the Premier League leaders by four points over Tottenham and could yet finish the season with the domestic double. But cracks are starting to show.

Antonio Conte's side last kept a clean sheet in the league on January 22, 11 games ago. Top scorer Diego Costa hasn't scored in his last six matches. Chelsea have lost two of their last four games, to Crystal Palace and Manchester United.

In those games, Palace and United played two up front to pressurise Chelsea's three-man backline. Tottenham did the same in beating Chelsea 2-0 at White Hart Lane in the league in January. Tottenham and United also played wing backs in those matches to negate the threat of Chelsea's wide players.

There looks to be a formula to stop Chelsea, provided opponents have the personnel to achieve it, and Spurs clearly do.

"It won't be easy," Conte said, looking ahead to the semi-final, "because Tottenham now are the best team. They are in good form and they have a lot of enthusiasm. They are feeling the possibility to write the history."

Spurs last lifted the FA Cup in 1991 and haven't won the league since 1961.

 

ARSENAL vs MANCHESTER CITY

 

The second semi-final looks just as compelling and features two more of England's heavyweight teams whose managers want to win a trophy for different reasons.

City manager Pep Guardiola is looking for something tangible to mark his first season in England, although an FA Cup title will not make up for his team's last-16 exit in the Champions League and failing to mount a Premier League title challenge.

As for Arsene Wenger, this could be his last season in charge of Arsenal, with his contract up in June. Winning the FA Cup in 2014, for his first trophy in nine years, might have persuaded him to stay on as manager and history could be repeated three years later.