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Chelsea vs Leicester FA Cup final: 5 key battles that will determine Wembley winner

Chelsea and Leicester City will face off in the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley.

Having beaten Manchester City and Southampton in their respective semi-finals, Thomas Tuchel and Brendan Rodgers will each fight for their first pieces of silverware at their current clubs.

The sides are both chasing a place in the Premier League top four and Champions League qualification, and will meet again at Stamford Bridge in the top flight next Tuesday.

That follows a 2-0 Foxes win in January, which was Frank Lampard’s final league match as Blues boss and the teams’ last meeting.

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Each outfit is blessed with serious talent, so there’ll likely be plenty of individual skirmishes on the famous pitch come 5:15pm on Saturday.

Here, we take a look at five key battles that could determine the final.

N’Golo Kante vs Wilfred Ndidi

Ndidi's impact in midfield will be vital for Leicester
Ndidi’s impact in midfield will be vital for Leicester

As two of the Premier League’s finest defensive-minded midfielders, Kante and Ndidi are set to lock horns in the middle of the park on Saturday.

Chelsea ’s French World Cup winner looks back to his best, putting on a stellar showing in their victorious Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid, which sent them through to their second-ever final.

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Meanwhile, the Nigerian was fantastic in Leicester ’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Tuesday, breaking up play and driving forward in trademark fashion, making the most tackles (3) and winning the most duels (10) on the night.

Although their primary job is to stop creators from running the show, Kante and Ndidi will certainly have one eye on each other over the distance of the final, and each rank first in their squad for interceptions in the top flight this season.

If either of them dominates, so should their team.

Mason Mount vs Youri Tielemans

Mount has had a superb season for Chelsea
Mount has had a superb season for Chelsea

Moving on to said creators, these two are the ever-reliables of their sides and never seem to put in a poor shift.

Both have featured in over 30 league games this campaign, and Mount in particular has shone under both Lampard and Tuchel, ranking second in the overall table for total key passes made in this Premier League term (78 in 33 appearances).

Tielemans, on the other hand, has less responsibility in attack, with only four outfield players recovering the ball more times in the 2020/21 campaign, although each player averages over two tackles per-90 minutes.

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Often assisting the actual assist-maker of a goal, the duo’s consistency is also crucial, especially on the big occasions like Saturday.

Both managers will be reliant on the pair to perform, and they’ve got history at Wembley; with Mount netting a winner for England in an October 2020 Nations League clash, before Tielemans bagged a goal the following month as Belgium won the reverse bout in Heverlee.

Ben Chilwell vs Timothy Castagne

Castagne has impressed in his first season with the Foxes
Castagne has impressed in his first season with the Foxes

Another England vs Belgium battle now and by far our most precarious pick, due to either player not as guaranteed to start as our eight others.

The Blues paid £42m to bring Chilwell to Stamford Bridge from the King Power this summer, which led to the Foxes sealing the deal to bring Castagne in from Serie A side Atalanta for a snip at £18m.

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Both have two goals to their name in league play, with their wing-back roles unleashing them on opposition defences.

Belgian Castagne has been a utility man for Rodgers, playing in a variety of roles such as a third centre-back like in their midweek win, full-back and wing-back – all on either side – due to James Justin and Ricardo Pereira’s injury issues.

Chilwell is competing with Marcos Alonso for the nod at left wing-back, and may face Mark Albrighton or Pereira if Castagne starts inside and Jonny Evans remains sidelined.

One thing is for sure, though, this wide encounter would be great to watch.

Timo Werner vs Wesley Fofana

Werner has shown signs of edging towards his best for Chelsea
Werner has shown signs of edging towards his best for Chelsea

These two summer signings have certainly had contrasting fortunes since arriving at their respective clubs.

Werner has missed a whopping 18 big chances in the top flight during his maiden season, following a £44m move from RB Leipzig last June, with many labelling the German a flop despite 14 direct goal contributions in 20/21.

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Conversely, not many expected Fofana to have the impact that he’s had when Leicester paid £29m for the then 19-year-old, but eight months later, the French youngster is set to be the future of both his nation and club’s defence for years to come.

The rapid Werner’s tendency to drift out wide to the left will take him into Fofona’s zone – again, depending on Evans’ fitness.

No Foxes man averages more clearances and blocks per-90 than the former St. Etienne starlet, while the Blues’ 25-year-old hit and miss marksman works best off a focal point, which could be compatriot Kai Havertz.

We’ll be excited if this pair clashes with one another near to the goal.

Antonio Rudiger vs Kelechi Iheanacho

Iheanacho has been terrific in the second half of the season
Iheanacho has been terrific in the second half of the season

Ending with a similar striker vs centre-back scenario, this duo have silenced doubters this term.

Labelling Iheanacho ‘in form’ would almost be an understatement, as the ex-Manchester City striker has 13 goals in his last 12 outings for Leicester, including the only goal of their aforementioned semi-final triumph over Southampton.

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Out of favour under Lampard, Rudiger has been a key cog in Tuchel’s Chelsea machine, helping the West London outfit concede just 11 goals in the manager’s 25 matches in charge.

The 2018 final Man of the Match (as the Blues beat Manchester United 1-0) has been one of the Premier League’s outstanding centre-backs since his new boss arrived, following reports that Tuchel was eyeing up Rudiger’s services while in the Paris Saint-Germain hot seat.

Iheanacho doesn’t seem to be afraid of any defender, though, so this could get tasty in a battle akin to an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

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