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The big talking points ahead of the FA Cup semi-finals

The big talking points ahead of the FA Cup semi-finals
© Reuters
Leicester and Southampton will go head-to-head in front of 4,000 spectators in the weekend's second semi-final.

Manchester City face Chelsea and Leicester take on Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley this weekend.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the games.

City’s quadruple quest

Pep Guardiola has managed his Manchester City side superbly so far this season
Pep Guardiola has managed his Manchester City side superbly so far this season (Rui Vieira/PA)

Pep Guardiola may have tried to avoid talk of the quadruple but, as his formidable Manchester City team march relentlessly on, it is only growing louder. The Premier League leaders go into the game on a high after their midweek Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund. City were beaten by Leeds last weekend but that merely seems to underline the flexibility Guardiola now has, having built up a commanding lead, to focus on the very biggest games. This would be another one, as would next weekend’s Carabao Cup final. Winning the quadruple would ordinarily seem fanciful, but the way Guardiola has expertly managed his squad makes it seem realistic. He will certainly not be willing to accept any drop-off in intensity on Saturday.

Chelsea’s resurgence under Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel has made an excellent start at Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel has made an excellent start at Chelsea (John Walton/PA)

The odds may favour City but that does not mean Chelsea, buoyed by their own run to the Champions League semi-finals, will not be the toughest of opponents. Their form since Thomas Tuchel took charge in January has been almost as eye-catching as City’s. The only losses in that time have been a freak 5-2 thrashing by West Brom after having a man sent off and their midweek defeat by Porto in the second leg of a tie they still won. Their success has been based on solid defence and it will be interesting to see how they deal with City’s attack as Tuchel comes up against Guardiola for the first time in English football.

Leicester out to finish on a high

While it will obviously not compare to their stunning title triumph of 2016, this has been another impressive season from Leicester. They have been in the top four of the Premier League for most of the season and are involved in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1982. The worry is they might run out of steam with the prizes in sight, as they did when they fell out of Champions League contention in the run-in last term. Back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and West Ham have certainly set nerves jangling and star striker Jamie Vardy has not scored in 10 games. The disciplining of three key players for breaching Covid-19 protocols has also added to their problems. Manager Brendan Rodgers, whose Liverpool side faltered at the last in 2013, needs to provoke a response.

Southampton the outsiders

Danny Ings could be key to Southampton's chances
Danny Ings could be key to Southampton’s chances (Glyn Kirk/PA)

Saints are clearly the least fancied of the four remaining sides and their defensive record – the second worst in the Premier League – will give Leicester encouragement. The recent return of Danny Ings to action after injury could be key to their hopes. Unlike in their last appearance appearance in the semi-finals, however, they are free of relegation worries. Their preoccupation with survival appeared to contribute to their defeat in a damp squib of a match against Chelsea in 2018. Victory would give them the chance to finish a challenging year in a positive way, with a shot at winning only the club’s second major trophy.

Return of spectators

Wembley will welcome some spectators back this weekend
Wembley will welcome some spectators back this weekend (Catherine Ivill/PA)

The weekend marks the next step towards the return of spectators, with 4,000 to be permitted for the second of the semi-finals between Leicester and Southampton. There will be no fans of either club, with the crowd being drawn from local residents, but it is clearly a significant and welcome move forward. There will be 8,000, including fans, in attendance for the Carabao Cup final with potentially 20,000 permitted into the FA Cup final.

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