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Blog - Five Aside

Soccernet Preview: FA Cup final

Two years ago, Portsmouth won the FA Cup to set in motion what David James has described as a "crippling" of the club's finances. Now, with a squad ravaged by the worst excesses of the darkest period in Pompey's history, the club face a formidable challenge on the pitch: tackling a rampant Chelsea side that greedily accumulated in excess of 100 goals when winning the Premier League title.

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The contrast between the two clubs could hardly be greater ahead of the Wembley final. Chelsea, supported by Roman Abramovich's vast resources, appear poised for the first domestic Double in their history. Portsmouth are the underdogs to end all underdogs, having seen the club change hands on five occasions this season, most recently to the current administrators in a development that cost them nine points and any hope of avoiding relegation.

Despite all their problems - which have included failing to pay their staff on time on multiple occasions - the supporters have remained firmly behind their beloved manager Avram Grant. His current popularity is in stark contrast to the struggle he endured to win over sceptical Chelsea fans, and having twice lost in cup finals with the Blues at the end of 2008, Grant will be suitably determined to engineer the most unlikely of cup victories.

Chelsea player in focus: Frank Lampard. Perhaps England's most in-form player at present, Lampard has finished the season in accomplished form, scoring 11 goals and claiming four assists in his past nine games. It was Lampard who put the finishing touches to the 3-0 win over Aston Villa in the semi-finals and few would bet against the midfielder repeating the trick at Wembley on Saturday.

Portsmouth player in focus: Jamie O'Hara. The on-loan midfielder swept the board at the club's end-of-season awards, and rightly so. O'Hara has been by some distance the best player at the troubled club this season, proving a point to Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp in the process with a string of influential performances. O'Hara memorably burst into tears when he failed to make the Spurs squad for the 2008 Carling Cup final, and after missing the semi-final victory over his parent club this year, he appears willing to risk aggravating stress fractures in his back to feature against Chelsea.

Key battle: Didier Drogba v David James. The Chelsea striker claimed the Golden Boot with a hat-trick on the final day of the season and has enjoyed his most prolific campaign in front of goal. With the Ivorian in such deadly form, James will have to demonstrate why he has been included in Fabio Capello's 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup. Portsmouth's club captain has been a unifying figure throughout the club's financial struggle and is an FA Cup veteran having played in the final for Liverpool, Aston Villa and Portsmouth in the past. Drogba is no rookie himself having scored in the 2009 and 2007 finals, and the outcome of this battle could determine which side gets to clamber up the Wembley steps and lift the trophy.

Tactics: A tally of 103 league goals demonstrates that Chelsea are a team of real attacking potency and they will look to feed Drogba, with Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka expected to play wide of the central striker. Frank Lampard will look to arrive late in the box and pick up any loose balls, with Ashley Cole providing width from his position as a foraging left back. Portsmouth's selection is harder to predict but they have a narrow side, with Jamie O'Hara the key man in a midfield that could take the aerial route to Frederic Piquionne or play the ball to the feet of Aruna Dindane. Portsmouth will hope to outmuscle Chelsea in midfield if at all possible.

Quotes: Salomon Kalou denies suggestions that beating Portsmouth will be no problem for Chelsea: "People think that because Portsmouth have been relegated and we are champions that it will be an easy game, but no, it won't. We have seen it before when a small team has made it difficult for the big team so we have to think about that, and as it is a cup final, it could last 90 minutes or it could last 120 minutes and we have to be ready for every situation. We must be prepared."

David James dreams of claiming two trophies this summer as he prepares for his fourth final: "Winning the FA Cup and World Cup would be unbeatable. Hopefully it will happen. My first final for Liverpool was good in the build-up but understandably, because it was Liverpool, the FA Cup was nice but it was not the league and did not have the same desirability. The one for Aston Villa was the first time they had been there for 50 years and that was a big day. Last time round with Portsmouth was massive, superb, the first time to qualify for Europe in their history. It was a tremendous build-up, a tremendous day."

In the news: Where else to start but with John Terry's injury drama? As of 1530 BST on Wednesday, the Blues captain was out of the World Cup due to a metatarsal injury. Two frantic hours later, and with the defender leaving Cobham with a protective boot in place, medical updates confirmed he may well play a part in the FA Cup final. Whoever said the English media gets hysterical come World Cup time?

On the Portsmouth side of things, David James has hinted he may well stay at the club, and incur a hefty pay decrease, despite their relegation to the Championship. "I've thought about it [the future] but I haven't made any decisions because I need to sit down with the administrators and see what the plan is. With the FA Cup coming up, there is nothing that's going to happen between now and then. That conversation will happen afterwards."

Chelsea team news: Despite some claims to the contrary on Wednesday afternoon, John Terry is expected to play following a training-ground injury sustained in a collision with Daniel Sturridge. Terry was forced to don a protective boot when leaving Cobham but will not miss the World Cup and trained on Wednesday. Fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic is a doubt due to a knee problem though, so Paulo Ferreira is on standby to deputise for the Serbia international.

Portsmouth team news: O'Hara remains a doubt due to his back complaint while Aruna Dindane (groin) and Kevin-Prince Boateng (ankle) are also generating cause for concern. Nadir Belhadj has returned from Qatar where he was undergoing treatment on a hamstring problem and may be available, with Richard Hughes also making positive progress following another hamstring injury. Marc Wilson (hamstring) and Hassan Yebda (thigh) are further doubts for a side that may be stretched to the limit.

Probable Chelsea team (4-3-3): Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, A Cole, Ballack, Lampard, Malouda, Kalou, Drogba, Anelka.

Probable Portsmouth team (4-4-2): James, Finnan, Rocha, Wilson, Belhadj, Mullins, Mokoena, Utaka, O'Hara, Piquionne, Dindane.

Soccernet prediction: It would be faintly ridiculous to predict anything other than a Chelsea victory. Portsmouth may have exhibited real spirit during their troubles this season but it may well become a question of how many Chelsea can score.


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