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David Meyler: I don't see Leicester's 137-year wait for FA Cup glory ending against Chelsea

This week, our columnist looks ahead fo Saturday’s final at Wembley, which sees Thomas Tuchel and Brendan Rodgers face off.

Chelsea's Christian Pulisic running at the Leicester players.
Chelsea's Christian Pulisic running at the Leicester players.
Image: PA

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler previews the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City, before praising the newly-crowned Premier League champions — Manchester City.

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 Chelsea v Leicester City, 5.15pm Saturday 

Leicester City may have been Premier League champions more recently than Manchester United and Arsenal, but they’ve never won the FA Cup in their 137-year history.

The Foxes finished runners-up in the competition four times, and you have to go all the way back to 1969 for their last appearance in the final. 

Famously, they lifted the League Cup twice under Martin O’Neill — seeing off Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough in 1997 before getting the better of Tranmere Rovers, then managed by former Ireland striker John Aldridge, three years later.

Qualifying for the Champions League takes priority over the FA Cup for many clubs these days, due to the financial windfall and prestige associated with playing in Europe’s top competition. 

Under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester are on course for a top-four finish but you can bet that they will also be desperate to get their hands on silverware at Wembley this weekend. 

They are a club who appear to be doing things right. The excellent progress made during Claudio Ranieri’s time in charge has been built upon over the last couple of years, even more impressive when you consider they had to deal with the untimely death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in tragic circumstances. 

Despite losing key players such as N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and, more recently, Harry Maguire and Ben Chilwell, Leicester have recruited really well to find suitable replacements. 

Having narrowly missed out on the top four last year, they have been brilliant again this season.

For the first few months of the campaign, they played a 4-5-1 with James Maddison just off Jamie Vardy.

Then Maddison picked up an injury and we were wondering what they were going to do as he is a massive player for them. Kelechi Iheanacho comes in to partner Vardy at the end of February and goes on a great scoring run — bagging 10 goals in his last 11 league games.

At the back, Wesley Fofana was an excellent signing and Jonny Evans has been a really solid Premier League defender for over a decade.

In midfield, Youri Tielemans seems to be getting better and better and Wilfred Ndidi plays that ‘Makelele role’ really well.

They’ve got a great core of honest players who work hard for each other and for their manager.

leicester-city-v-southampton-fa-cup-semi-final-wembley-stadium Kelechi Iheanacho has been in fine goalscoring form for Leicester. Source: PA

The build-up to FA Cup final day is like nothing else I’ve experienced in football — from getting your suit fitted to travelling by train down to London and seeing the droves of supporters who have also made the trip. You feel such an overwhelming sense of anticipation.

With Hull City in 2014, we knew it was the one opportunity that group of players would had to win the competition.

In the tunnel before kick-off, we lined up with our shirts in tucked and were ready to go. There was no laughing or joking.

Then the Arsenal players come out and a couple of them didn’t have their laces tied. Their players looked far more relaxed and probably took us for granted.

That allowed us to go 2-0 up early on, but they took control in the second half and their quality shone through in the end — Aaron Ramsey scoring the winner deep into extra-time.

We were absolutely gutted and, to make matters worse, I was one of four players called in to do a drugs test after the medal ceremony.

The two Arsenal players sat beside us were Kieran Gibbs and Olivier Giroud. At one point, Giroud saying to Gibbs ‘look, it’s a winner’s medal’.

I remember sitting alongside him and thinking ‘what an arsehole you are’. I’ve never looked at him the same since.

It was around 11pm before I got back to the team hotel, where the club had planned a reception with all of our families — win, lose or draw.

I met my mum, my dad and my sister but I think they only stayed with me for about 15 minutes because I was heartbroken and wasn’t in the mood to talk so I went to my room.

My dad gave me a pep talk to say he knew I was disappointed but that I’d look back on it proudly in years to come.

And I do now. We may have lost the final but it was a special journey to be a part of.

Hull were complete underdogs and everyone expected us to lose heavily, like when Man City beat Watford 6-0 in 2019, but we turned up and gave it everything we had.

soccer-fa-cup-final-arsenal-v-hull-city-wembley-stadium Me and Bacary Sagna in the 2014 FA Cup final. Source: EMPICS Sport

On Saturday, Chelsea — eight-time winners of the FA Cup — will be clear favourites.

It’s interesting to hear Thomas Tuchel mention Frank Lampard and the fact that they went unbeaten through the group stages of the Champions League under his predecessor.

I think the German coach is being a bit humble there, as he has done terrific work since coming in.

Chelsea could yet win the FA Cup, the Champions League and finish in the top four. They’ve had victories over Real Madrid in Europe and Man City — both in the FA Cup semi-final and the league.

With the exception of the Arsenal defeat on Wednesday, things are going really well. If you look at that game, the goal was a bad mistake by Jorginho but what I liked was Tuchel taking full responsibility for it.

He said that they encourage the players to play the ball back to Kepa’s right foot, but the goalkeeper moved to make an angle for the pass and it’s a terrible mix up.

Chelsea still had enough chances to get back into it and I would expect them to win tomorrow. That said, Rodgers will have a game plan against his old club. He will look to frustrate and hit them on the counter attack.

I’m predicting Chelsea get over the line and win a tight game. Let’s say a 2-1 victory with Mason Mount producing on the day.

Although it’s not a full house, it will be great to have a crowd of 21,000 present at Wembley as football is made for fans.

Man City v Newcastle, 8pm Friday 

It’s fair to say if Man City win the Champions League later this month, they will go down as the greatest team in the club’s history.

You might get people like Vincent Kompany or David Silva disagreeing, and that is understandable.

In a team full of world-class players, Ruben Dias has been phenomenal. He should be in the running for Premier League Player of the Year. The award tends to favour attackers but, Virgil van Dijk did get his hands on it two years ago.

paris-saint-germain-v-manchester-city-uefa-champions-league-semi-final-first-leg-parc-des-princes Ruben Dias should be in the running for Premier League Player of the Year. Source: PA

You have to give Pep Guardiola so much credit for what they have done. If you remember, they had that dip in form at the start of the season. I wrote back then that they would come good once they got their house in order, and that has happened.

Now they look like they’re going to win a treble, albeit a different treble to the one Man United won — as Rio Ferdinand likes telling everyone.

We’re very fortunate to have had so many of the game’s top managers in English football.

With the exception of Max Allegri and Diego Simeone, and some up and coming coaches like Julian Nagelsmann, most of the current greats have been in the Premier League at some point in recent years.

Guardiola will want every one of his players at a high level for the Champions League final and we saw that as soon as they won the title they were back out training.

He rang in the changes last weekend, so I’d expect them to be full strength this evening.

Newcastle have been on a good run recently but I think City will dominate possession and win 3-0.

 William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org      

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