5 key battles that could decide Saturday’s FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea

London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea meet on a Wembley Stadium battleground on Saturday evening to contest an FA Cup Final that promises to be an explosive skirmish.

The clubs from the capital have been regular FA Cup final participants this millennium, and Saturday will be Chelsea’s 8th and Arsenal’s 7th appearance in the competition’s climactic fixtures since 2000.

Both Chelsea boss Frank Lampard and Arsenal guru Mikel Arteta lifted the FA Cup as players for the clubs they currently manage, though tasting glory as a dugout tactician would likely taste even sweeter.

Ahead of Saturday’s action, we’ve taken a look at the key individual battles that could decide the outcome of the 139th FA Cup Final.

For a more detailed analysis of the game, head on over to our Arsenal vs Chelsea predictions for a comprehensive match preview.

David Luiz vs Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud Chelsea and Fabinho Liverpool

In a fascinating duel between two players who have represented both clubs, erratic Arsenal centre-half David Luiz comes up against expert poacher Olivier Giroud on Saturday.

Former Blue Luiz picked up yellow and red cards in Arsenal’s two Premier League meetings with Chelsea this season, while Grioud, enjoying a late-season resurgence under Lampard, has the form and confidence to give the Brazilian a tough time following a run of seven goals in 11 games.

Giroud bagged Chelsea’s opening goal when they put Arsenal to the sword in last year’s Europa League Final, and having notched in each of his last four starts, the World Cup winner could be a difference-maker again.

French centre-forward Giroud also features in our 22/1 #OOT selection for Saturday’s FA Cup Final. Make sure to check the rest of our selections out!

Bakary Saka vs Reece James

Two fabulously talented young players could be set to tussle for supremacy down the same flank on Saturday evening should Bakary Saka and Reece James make the cut for the Final.

In an up and down season for the Gunners, 18-year-old Saka has been a consistent positive and the club’s academy starlet reached double figures for assists (10) during what has been a breakout campaign.

Reece James can be just as pleased with his work following a productive maiden season in Chelsea’s first team, and the fullback’s adventurous forward forays should repeatedly see him come face to face with Saka down the Blues’ right-hand side.

Hector Bellerin vs Christian Pulisic

Hector Bellerin has been quietly rebuilding his reputation at Arsenal following his return from injury, and having featured in eight fixtures for the Gunners since the restart last month, the 25-year-old will hope to be one of several Spaniards to feature at Wembley on Saturday.

If Bellerin, who scored a dramatic equalizer at Stamford Bridge for Arsenal in January, earns a start, the wing-back will likely be tasked with limiting the impact of the increasingly influential Chelsea attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic.

With four goals and two assists in eight starts since mid-June, the 21-year-old USA international has been one of Chelsea’s most productive players, and with a 2.5 attempts per game average, Pulisic is a constant threat.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Cesar Azpilicueta

Arsenal Aubameyang and Wolves Saiss

Even though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future with Arsenal is still in a state of flux, the Gabon superstar hasn’t let his remarkable goal-scoring standards drop.

The 31-year-old has already plundered 27 goals in all competitions this season, and Aubameyang bagged both of Arsenal’s goals in their unexpected 2-0 triumph over Man City in the teams’ FA Cup semi-final bout.

Chelsea stalwart Cesar Azpilicueta, who is averaging 2.3 tackles per game this season, will need to stretch every inch of his defensive acumen to keep a lid on Aubameyang’s penetrative play, and the Spanish defender will likely have a heavy workload this weekend.

Granit Xhaka vs Mason Mount

With Arsenal-bound Willian unlikely to play, a space has opened up for Mason Mount to start again in Chelsea’s team on Saturday.

The 21-year-old schemer has found real form in recent weeks, hitting one of Chelsea’s three goals in their FA Cup semi-final win against Man Utd and breaking the deadlock against Wolves in the Blues’ crucial final league fixture with a sumptuous free-kick.

Aside from his usual creative remit, Mount could be asked to cut off Granit Xhaka’s passing lanes in the Arsenal midfield at Wembley.

The Swiss anchorman, more renowned for this tackling than his distribution, actually ranks first at Arsenal this season for average passes played per game with 61.4, and the 27-year-old will be hoping to pull the strings from deep again in Saturday’s final.

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