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Saturday, 15 May 2010

FA Cup Final: Can Portsmouth spring huge shock against the champions?


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The Premier League champions take on the Premier League’s basement boys at Wembley in the FA Cup Final this afternoon and most pundits are predicting a walk in the park for the champions. Chelsea will still be buzzing following their empathic 8-0 win over Wigan at the weekend to clinch the title and are huge favourites to claim their first ever double. However, Portsmouth go into the game with nothing to lose. They are millions in debt, will be playing in the Championship next season and it will be the final goodbye for the majority of the first XI.

Portsmouth manager Avram Grant, who was so shabbily treated by Chelsea, will have his boys fired up for this game, but can they stop the attacking threat of Chelsea and produce arguably the biggest cup final shock in history?

For those who are regular readers of squarefootball, you will know that at the weekend we have our special Premier League Prediction Panel – made up of fans who give their score predictions for the vital matches. Well, seeing as it is the FA Cup Final, I’ve contacted a few of our panellists and asked them not only for their score predictions but how they think the game will pan out.

Kicking off proceedings is Portsmouth fan Peter Rendle. Nobody is giving the 2008 winners a hope in hell of defeating the English champions but Peter, who will be watching the game in Australia, is hoping his boys can spring a shock.

“What can I say re Pompey v Chelsea? We've just come off an unjust 1-0 loss at Everton and Chelsea have just thrashed Wigan 8-0. Nah, I cannot put the mockers on my team by going against them so I predict a shock 1-0 win to Portsmouth.”

That view is shared by fellow Portsmouth supporter Dan Taylor who just can’t bet against his own team.

“I am going for a 1-0 win to Portsmouth. I have no faith but I can't predict a loss.”

The biggest FA Cup Final win was in 1903 when Bury hit Derby County for six. However, Wolverhampton Wanderers fan Chris Cox believes that record could be under threat.

“I think it will be Chelsea 5 Portsmouth 0. An embarrassment for Pompey looms . . . This has the potential to end up as the biggest final margin ever.”

This view is echoed by Middlesbrough follower Sue Gardener, who will be locking horns with Portsmouth in the Championship next season.

“I believe Chelsea will run out 3-1 winners against Portsmouth. Chelsea want this one more than Portsmouth do. Their goal this season was to out-do Manchester United and winning the cup will really rub the salt in the Red Devil’s wounds after losing the league title.”

And Bolton Wanderers supporter Dave Blackburn believes Portsmouth require a miracle if they want to win their third FA Cup.

“Sorry to Pompey but I think it will be one game to far. They have done brilliantly against adversity but a team as strong as Chelsea will be too strong and after clinching the title will be out for the double. I really don't think they will cock it up - I know Avram Grant has worked miracles but this will be one miracle too many! It will be Chelsea 3 Portsmouth 0.”

And there’s no let up in the support for Chelsea. West Bromwich Albion fan Andy Wakeman, who will be reacquainting himself with the boys in blue come August, just can’t see Chelsea losing.

“Chelsea will win at a canter. They have better players and will be keen to do the double. Pompey have had a good run and the siege mentality has carried them to the final. However class tells and Chelsea will have far too much for them Chelsea 4-0.”

Fellow panellist and Arsenal fan Don McMahon, who saw his team convincingly turned over by Chelsea this season, believes Portsmouth will score, but not as many as Chelsea in a high scoring cup classic.

“Chelsea will overwhelm Portsmouth, as they have been absolutely murderous in their last four games so I predict their 5-2 victory and an easy game for them.”

Squarefootball editor, Antony Melvin, is also siding with the Champions.

"I can't see past a Chelsea win, but not by a margin as some think.  This Portsmouth side has only been playing for pride since January so there may be a few goals against what could be a complacent Chelsea.  Chelsea to win 3-2 for me."

Personally I can only see one winner but this is the FA Cup and anything is possible. After all, who outside of Fratton Park would have predicted Portsmouth would have beaten high-flying Spurs in the semi-final? Granted, Chelsea have a lot more class and experience than Tottenham but that was a shock and the FA Cup throws up more twists and turns than an episode of EastEnders. Avram Grant is used to coming second where Chelsea are involved and I just can’t see him preventing Chelsea clinching their first league and cup double. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the underdogs do it but I think Chelsea will run out comfortable winners, 4-1.

Wimbledon stunned the all-conquering Liverpool to win the FA Cup 1-0 in 1988, Coventry City famously beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in 1987 and Sunderland defeated the mighty Leeds United in 1973 to produce three of the biggest final shocks ever. However, if Pompey pull it off this afternoon – given their turbulent season on and off the pitch – it would surely eclipse those to be crowned the biggest cup final shock in history.

· Calling all Chelsea and Portsmouth fans. What do you think the score will be? If Portsmouth beat Chelsea today to win the cup will it be the biggest final shock in the history of the competition? How can Avram Grant get the better of the champions? Whatever your view, I’d love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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