Conor Gallagher’s late winner against Leeds spares Pochettino another Chelsea inquest

Conor Gallagher celebrates
Gallagher's Chelsea future is uncertain but he has a FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to - Chelsea FC/Darren Walsh

There has been so much talk of Conor Gallagher’s value, and whether he will be the one sacrificed at the altar of the financial rules, but the midfielder proved to be priceless as he earned Chelsea a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Arriving as a second-half substitute, just as Chelsea were being overwhelmed by Leeds, just as the pressure was growing and growing on head coach Mauricio Pochettino, just as that Gary Neville put-down about being the “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” was already haunting them, Gallagher provided the lifeline and, dare it be said, had the air of a prime Frank Lampard.

It was certainly a winning goal that was Lampard-esque, with a predatory finish, as Gallagher collected Enzo Fernandez’s pass, deftly made space and slammed the ball into the net just as it appeared Chelsea were heading for extra-time for the second time in four days having lost the Carabao Cup final to Liverpool.

Instead they fight again. They did not bottle this one. They still have a trophy to aim for – with a tie at home to another Championship high-flyer in Leicester City – and their season is alive. The FA Cup is their best hope of securing European football, which appears a prerequisite for Pochettino to retain his job even if he denies he has been told that is required.

The result was tough on Leeds, with 20-year-old Mateo Joseph leading the line not having scored a senior goal before. He claimed two and should have had a hat-trick while despite the relieved celebrations it was an uncomfortable evening for Chelsea with a smattering of boos as Raheem Sterling was substituted after an underwhelming performance.

Raheem Sterling
Sterling has still not won over Chelsea supporters - CameraSport/David Horton

Sterling was one of four players Pochettino took off as he tried to stem the momentum that had swung so alarmingly in Leeds’ favour and, in the cold light of day, the lack of control Chelsea exerted after turning round an early deficit was shocking.

It was Gallagher who made the difference. Mykhailo Mudryk had been an interesting experiment in the No 10 role – used there for the first time in his Chelsea career – and he scored a fine goal. But he does not have the bite and drive that Gallagher possesses.

The England international has the capacity to be the game-changer, and he was unfortunate not to win Chelsea the League Cup last Sunday, and so he proved his worth here.

Which brings us back to his future. It is remarkable that Chelsea have not tied the 24-year-old to a new contract. Instead, they have attempted to sell him – encouraging deals from Everton, West Ham United, Fulham, Brighton and Newcastle United – and it looks like Tottenham Hotspur will finally make their move if a new deal is not signed. Could they really sell to Tottenham of all clubs? It seems ludicrous.

But by then Gallagher will be in the final year of his contract and Chelsea cannot afford, quite literally, to let that deal run down. Instead, they can bank his transfer fee as pure profit, given he is an academy product, but how can it be that the financial rules encourage such a move? They should be all about inducing clubs to produce their own players. Not selling them.

Chelsea are also at fault and what an indictment it would be in their brave new world of young talent if one of their own, if one of the players deemed important enough to wear the captain’s armband, has to be sold.

That would be inept. Inept as Chelsea were in conceding the opening goal. Axel Disasi was a bit of a disaster from start to finish and he set the tone when his sluggish pass put Moises Caicedo under pressure with the outstanding 17-year-old Leeds midfielder Archie Gray stealing the ball away, Jaidon Anthony quickly picking out Joseph and the striker easily beating Robert Sanchez.

The goalkeeper was one of five changes and there were five also for Leeds whose priorities, more so than Chelsea, lie elsewhere but how their fans delighted in the goal even if the advantage was short-lived. There was a reprieve for Caicedo who played a clever threaded pass to pick out the run of Nicolas Jackson with the striker finishing smartly.

Mudryk’s goal was equally accomplished, a first-time strike as he met Sterling’s cut-back, and it seemed Chelsea would push on.

They categorically did not with Fernandez booked, meaning he will miss the quarter-final, and Gray and Ethan Ampadu, a former Chelsea big hope, running the midfield.

Deservedly they equalised when Joseph headed in from close-range and he should have scored again. Instead, he mis-timed a header.

By now Pochettino had seen the danger. He made changes as the anxiety grew and Anthony failed to take two chances. Chelsea were being out-fought and out-played and all the noise was coming from the 5,300 Leeds fans who sensed a famous victory, in what was the first FA Cup meeting between these two sides since that infamous 1970 final.

That was until Gallagher’s goal. Until his Lampard-like intervention. Pochettino has called him “priceless” and he was in this vital win. Can Chelsea really afford to let him go? It seems a strange calculation.

FA Cup firth-round ties, as they happened

10:21 PM GMT

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking to the BBC

“I think in the context of the week, I am happy.

“Amazing effort from the team, it wasn’t easy. Leeds are a very good team, one of the best in Championship. The performance wasn’t great but we scored at the end and won the game.

“Of course, it is about building our confidence again. When you face a team like Leeds they are full of confidence and it is not easy when you start losing the game.

“But, I think this type of game like the final is a good experience to be better every single week.

“The team is in good spirit and the relationship with the players is in a very good way.”

10:20 PM GMT

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to ITV

10:13 PM GMT

Debut for Liverpool at 16

10:09 PM GMT

Leeds’ Archie Gray speaking to ITV

10:08 PM GMT

Full of praise for Danns

10:05 PM GMT

Southampton manager Russell Martin speaking to ITV

10:02 PM GMT

Manchester United v Liverpool in QF

10:01 PM GMT

Harvey Elliott and man of the match Jayden Danns speaking to ITV

09:59 PM GMT

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking to ITV

09:58 PM GMT

Brilliant night for Danns and Liverpool

09:53 PM GMT

Quarter-final line-up

Wolves v Coventry

Chelsea v Leicester

Manchester United v Liverpool

Manchester City v Newcastle

09:52 PM GMT

Full time at Anfield

Liverpool are into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup after a 3-0 win thanks to Lewis Koumas’ debut goal and Jayden Danns’ first two senior goals.

09:48 PM GMT

Liverpool cruising

At Anfield there are four added minutes. Liverpool 3-0 up and are set to face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals.

09:47 PM GMT

Gallagher the matchwinner for Chelsea

09:46 PM GMT

Conor Gallagher speaking to ITV

09:45 PM GMT

Danns gets his second

Jayden Danns has his second Liverpool goal in front of the Kop. Bradley tries an outrageous outside-of-the-foot strike from just inside the box which Lumley does well to save. It rebounds back out to Danns who slots home.

09:43 PM GMT

Wolves through

At Molineux Wolves have beaten Brighton 1-0 despite a late chance for Brighton goalkeeper Steele from a corner. They will host Coventry in the quarter-finals.

09:38 PM GMT

At Molineux

They are into five minutes added time and Wolves still lead 1-0 thanks to Lemina’s second-minute goal.

09:35 PM GMT

Just 16

Trey Nyoni is coming on for his Liverpool debut aged just 16. 16!

09:32 PM GMT

Danns scores at the Kop end

What a moment for Jayden Danns! Earlier Lewis Koumas scored his first senior goal on his Liverpool debut, now Danns has his first Liverpool goal. Liverpool win it high up, Elliott feeds it into Danns, who scores with a delightful chip over Lumley in front of the Kop.

09:27 PM GMT

Full time at Stamford Bridge

Leeds had a late, late corner which they could have scored from but the full-time whistle is blown. That late Gallagher goal has won Chelsea this tie 3-2. They are into the quarter-finals, where they will host Championship leaders Leicester City.

Chelsea into the quarter-finals...just. Conor Gallagher’s late goal won the game to ease some of the pressure on Pochettino. Chelsea will now face Leicester City in the last eight.

09:23 PM GMT

90+3 minutes: Chelsea 3 Leeds 2

Late change for Chelsea as Mudryk is replaced by Tauriainen, who is on for his Chelsea debut.

09:22 PM GMT

90 minutes: Chelsea 3 Leeds 2

Four added minutes at Stamford Bridge.

09:21 PM GMT

GOAL! Gallagher gives Chelsea late lead

Just as the clock is ticking around to 90 Chelsea lead. Fernandez finds Gallagher on the edge of the box, he turns well and slots home over the top of Meslier. It looked like it might have taken a small touch off Cooper.

Just as it looked like Chelsea were heading for extra-time yet again, Gallagher has scored a crucial goal. It will surely send the home side through and save Pochettino another tough few days.

09:18 PM GMT

Sam Dalling live from Molineux

Hwang Hee-Chan was not moving well there. It was a very slow limp from the centre circle to the sideline. The South Korean went down holding his left hamstring with no-one particularly close to him.

That would be a real blow for Gary O’Neils side. They are already without Matheus Cunha, who currently tops Wolves’ scoring charts with, you guessed it, Hwang.

09:18 PM GMT

87 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

Chelsea have a corner with just under five minutes of normal time left. They now have another corner on the same side. Leeds clear but Chelsea keep it alive. It ends up with Colwill in the centre of the box but Meslier is out of his goal and snaffles it.

09:13 PM GMT

83 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

Another opportunity for Leeds as a ball comes in from the right but neither Anthony nor Joseph can take advantage.

09:12 PM GMT

82 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

Anthony cuts in from the left and tries to find the far top corner, but it goes over the bar. Just under 10 minutes to go of normal time at Stamford Bridge.

09:09 PM GMT

79 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

Chelsea want a penalty as Jackson goes down after contact in the air with Firpo. Nothing given and looking at the replays that looks like the right decision.

Leeds are making a double change as James and Piroe come off for Gnonto and Summerville.

09:06 PM GMT

74 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

Leeds probably should be ahead. The ball is whipped in from the right, goes over the head of Chalobah and falls into Joseph. He was not expecting it and cannot get it under his spell. Chance wasted.

Chelsea are now making a double change as Colwill and Palmer replace Sterling and Gilchrist.

Joseph just missed a great chance to complete his hat-trick. Has a player ever scored his first-ever senior goal as part of a hat-trick?

Pochettino sends on Cole Palmer in place of Sterling. There are some boos for Sterling from a section of Chelsea fans.

09:02 PM GMT

Back under way at Anfield

In what is likely a pre-planned change, Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk, who was the man of the match in a match-winning 120-minute performance on Sunday, is replaced at the break by Konate.

09:00 PM GMT

Latest at Molineux

Wolves are still 1-0 up against Brighton, just under 10 minutes into the second half.

08:59 PM GMT

69 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

Firpo is the first Leeds player booked tonight after a foul on Sterling.

08:55 PM GMT

65 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2

After Leeds’ equaliser, Mauricio Pochettino has made a double change. Gusto and Madueke have been replaced by Chilwell and Gallagher.

08:51 PM GMT

GOAL! Leeds equalise

Leeds are back on level terms. Anthony cuts in from the left onto his right foot at the edge of the box. He plays a delightful cross to the far post and Joseph heads home for his second of the game. Game on, 2-2.

Pochettino had been angry with the way Chelsea started the second half and was preparing to send on Gallagher and Chilwell just as Leeds equalised with another goal from Joseph. Game on...

08:47 PM GMT

Liverpool nearly 2-0 up

Liverpool almost immediately double their lead. They win it high up, Koumas feeds it delicately through to Gakpo inside the box. His effort is saved well by Lumley, yet it is given a goal-kick. Strange decision. The half-time whistle has just been blown at Anfield.

08:45 PM GMT

Liverpool take the lead

Liverpool are ahead just before the break and it is debutant Lewis Koumas who scores. He picks it up on the edge of the box, comes in centrally and his shot takes a slight deflection and beats Lumley. What a moment for Koumas, son of Jason.

08:40 PM GMT

49 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

A third Chelsea player into the book tonight as Caicedo is booked. He joins Fernandez and Chalobah into the book.

08:38 PM GMT

47 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

A Leeds United fan is reported to have fallen from the top tier of the Shed End while celebrating Mateo Joseph’s opening goal against Chelsea. Neither club has commented, but it has been confirmed that there was a medical emergency and it is also said the fan left the stadium on a stretcher in a neck brace.

Medical staff attend to a Leeds fan after a fall from the top tier
Medical staff attend to a Leeds fan after a fall from the top tier - Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

08:36 PM GMT

Second half

We are back under way at Stamford Bridge.

08:32 PM GMT

Live from Stamford Bridge

Enzo Fernandez was booked for dissent in the first half and that means he will miss the quarter-final tie against Leicester City if Chelsea win tonight because it was his second booking of the competition.

08:29 PM GMT

Latest from Anfield, Molineux

It is goalless at Anfield between Liverpool and Southampton just shy of the half-hour mark. At Molineux Wolves still lead Brighton 1-0 after Mario Lemina’s early goal.

08:20 PM GMT

Half time at Stamford Bridge

That is it for the first half and Chelsea have come from behind to lead at the break.

08:19 PM GMT

45+2 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

Leeds have a late corner in this first half, which Chelsea can clear.

08:17 PM GMT

45 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

Three added minutes at Stamford Bridge.

08:16 PM GMT

43 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

Anthony cuts in from the left, easily beating Gusto. He tries to curl one into the far corner but it is wide of Sanchez’s left post.

08:14 PM GMT

41 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

Big chance for James. From a Leeds free-kick, Firpo’s attempted shot finds James at the back post, but the Welsh winger gets his effort all wrong and misses the target by quite some way.

Chelsea’s captain on the night Fernandez is booked for dissent.

08:12 PM GMT

40 minutes: Chelsea 2 Leeds 1

Chalobah is the first man into the book tonight at Stamford Bridge for a nasty challenge on Piroe.

08:09 PM GMT

GOAL! Chelsea take the lead

Chelsea are ahead. After Gusto finds Sterling on the right-hand side of the Leeds box, he cuts it back to Mudryk, who slots home into the far corner.

Mudryk scores! He needed that. Chelsea have been well on top after equalising and Mudryk finished well from Sterling’s pull back. Straight after the goal, Pochettino called goalkeeper Sanchez over to the touchline to give him instructions.

08:07 PM GMT

Double chance for Southampton

Sulemana has it on the left-hand side of the Liverpool box and he tries to find the far corner. It comes off the post and goes behind. Moments later Mara dispossesses McConnell just outside the Liverpool penalty area and his effort is saved well by Kelleher.

08:05 PM GMT

33 minutes: Chelsea 1 Leeds 1

Madueke should do better there. It is from a narrow angle but his effort from around seven yards out hits the side netting.

08:02 PM GMT

Offside at Anfield

Southampton think they have the lead after 30 seconds but Mara was clearly offside.

08:00 PM GMT

28 minutes: Chelsea 1 Leeds 1

Mudryk tries to beat Meslier at his near post but the Leeds goalkeeper denies him with an outstretched leg. Moments later Mudryk takes a Chelsea corner, which he plays out to the edge of the box to Madueke, whose shot is high and wide. That was an abysmal effort.

07:55 PM GMT

24 minutes: Chelsea 1 Leeds 1

Former Chelsea youngster Ethan Ampadu has started really well for Leeds. He briefly flourished at Stamford Bridge when Antonio Conte was in charge, but never really got much of a chance afterwards.

07:54 PM GMT

22 minutes: Chelsea 1 Leeds 1

Fernandez, Chelsea’s captain tonight, takes aim from distance and at the second attempt after fumbling the initial effort, Meslier gathers. Not the best start from the Leeds goalkeeper.

07:50 PM GMT

Wolves ahead

After just 90 seconds Wolves have taken the lead at home against Brighton thanks to Mario Lemina.

Sam Dalling live from Molineux:

I said it wasn’t going to be fun, didn’t I?! Mario Lemina gets the goal but it’s all about the work of Jean-Ricner Bellegarde. The spin away from Jan Paul van Hecke in his own half was a thing of beauty. Van Hecke tried to bring him down, but Bellegarde was too strong. Then wow…the boy has some serious wheels.

Perfect start. If you are a Wolves fan, that is.

07:49 PM GMT

Live from Anfield

Nice touch before kick off as youngsters from the club’s Academy parade the cup around Anfield.

07:48 PM GMT

GOAL! Chelsea level

Chelsea are back on level terms. Caicedo feeds it into the path of Jackson on the right-hand side of the penalty area. He strikes from near the six-yard box and it finds a way past Meslier. The Leeds goalkeeper should have done better there. 1-1.

Pochettino’s back up on his feet now Chelsea are level and the home fans have found their voices. Great start to the game.

07:41 PM GMT

GOAL! Leeds take the lead

Moments after James should probably have put Leeds ahead, Daniel Farke’s side are ahead. From the Chelsea goal-kick, Disasi plays a terrible pass to Caicedo, who is under huge pressure, and it is intercepted by Leeds. Firpo feeds it inside to Joseph, who slots past Sanchez to give the visitors the lead.

Just what Chelsea didn’t want - Pochettino looked back at his bench with his hands together after seeing Disasi and Caicedo get in a mess and gift Leeds an opening goal. That’s Mateo Jospeh’s first senior goal and he might not score an easier one.

07:37 PM GMT

5 minutes: Chelsea 0 Leeds 0

Mykhailo Mudryk has a new role tonight. Not only is he wearing number 10, he’s also playing as a 10 for the first time for Chelsea. It will be interesting to see if it works...

07:33 PM GMT

1 minute: Chelsea 0 Leeds 0

A very nervy start for Chelsea inside the first minute. Gilchrist plays it back to Sanchez, but there is not much pace on the pass. James is closing down Sanchez and gets a block on it but Chelsea escape danger.

Nearly a disastrous start for Chelsea as Dan James chases down an under-hit backpass and Sanchez’s clearance hits him but the ball bounces to safety.

07:32 PM GMT

Sam Dalling live from Molineux

Evening from a relatively mild Molineux. Press room absolutely baking so have popped my head outside early.  Having said that it’s not too nippy, I’m not sure it’s quite t-shirt weather. No one seems to have told Max Kilman that, though. Perhaps they are made of sterner stuff in the Futsal world?!

Have to say there’s not much of the old FA Cup magic in the air. In fact, it’s very sparsely populated even given kick off is 20 minutes away. Still, the night is young and a plum home quarter-final against Coventry awaits the winner.  No disrespect to the Sky Blues, but if RDZ and Gary O’Neil could have hand selected their next opponents…

Am sure there will have been a few suits at EFL / FA HQ hoping for an even trickier tie for Coventry, what with the Championship play-off final and FA Cup final scheduled for consecutive days!

Anyway, I digress. Lots to like about both of these sides. Brighton are brilliant but also unpredictable. They’ve got a tonne of injuries so Cameron Peupion, a 21-year-old Aussie, makes his full debut.  He didn’t pull up many oaks during a loan at Cheltenham Town pre Xmas, but then again, this is Brighton…expect him to be in headlines later, mate.

Wolves have gone pretty strong, although neither Pedro Neto nor Pablo Sarabia start. O’Neil would, ideally, leave them sat on the bench but they are certainly game changers if required.

I reckon this is gonna be fun.

07:32 PM GMT


We are under way at Stamford Bridge.

Wolves v Brighton kicks off at 7.45pm and Liverpool host Southampton at 8.00pm. We will have updates from those games when they kick off.

07:28 PM GMT

Kick-off fast approaching at Stamford Bridge

Both sides have emerged from the tunnel and kick-off between Chelsea and Leeds is just moments away.

07:26 PM GMT

Reminder of the team news at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea: Sanchez, Gilchrist, Chalobah, Disasi, Gusto, Fernandez, Caicedo, Sterling, Mudryk, Madueke, Jackson.

Subs: Petrovic, Colwill, Murray-Campbell, Chilwell, Samuels-Smith, Harrison, Gallagher, Palmer, Tauriainen.

Leeds: Meslier, Firpo, Ampadu, Cooper, Rodon, Gray, Roberts, Anthony, James, Joseph, Piroe.

Subs: Klaesson, Cresswell, Van den Heuvel, Byram, Shackleton, Kamara, Summerville, Gnonto, Bamford.

07:24 PM GMT

Live from Stamford Bridge

We’ve had Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Eddie Gray on the Stamford Bridge pitch before kick-off. Chelsea v Leeds is remembered for the battles of the 70s and the home side will be expecting a fight tonight. Winner to play Leicester City in the quarter-finals.

07:20 PM GMT

Live from Anfield

Joe Gomez will adopt a new Liverpool role tonight: anchorman.

Klopp has run out of fit midfielders, so the centre-half/right back will fill in alongside the teenagers Bobby Clark and James McConnell. This week’s ‘son of an ex-footballer’ to play for Liverpool is Lewis Koumas, son of Jason.

Give it a few more years and Phil Jagielka’s son may be getting an Anfield debut too, and Prince Cisse - son of Djibril. Both are currently in the junior ranks.

07:09 PM GMT

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking to ITV

07:05 PM GMT

Quarter-final ties in full

Wolves or Brighton v Coventry

Nottingham Forest or Manchester United v Liverpool or Southampton

Chelsea or Leeds v Leicester City

Manchester City v Newcastle United

07:04 PM GMT

Tie number four

Manchester City v Newcastle United

07:04 PM GMT

Tie number three

Chelsea or Leeds v Leicester City

07:03 PM GMT

Tie number two

Nottingham Forest or Manchester United v Liverpool or Southampton

07:03 PM GMT

Tie number one

Wolves or Brighton v Coventry

07:02 PM GMT

Time for the draw

Former Arsenal and England goalkeeper David Seaman is on hand to help out with the draw for the quarter-finals. Here we go...

07:01 PM GMT

Southampton team news

07:01 PM GMT

Liverpool team news

06:52 PM GMT

Full team news from Stamford Bridge

Chelsea make five changes from the side that began the 1-0 Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool on Sunday. Defender Trevoh Chalobah makes his first start of the season. Alfie Gilchrist, Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke and Robert Sanchez also come into the starting XI.

Chelsea: Sanchez, Gilchrist, Chalobah, Disasi, Gusto, Fernandez, Caicedo, Sterling, Mudryk, Madueke, Jackson.

Subs: Petrovic, Colwill, Murray-Campbell, Chilwell, Samuels-Smith, Harrison, Gallagher, Palmer, Tauriainen.

Leeds also make five changes that won 3-1 against Championship leaders Leicester on Friday. Connor Roberts, Liam Cooper, Jaidon Anthony, Daniel James and Mateo Joseph all start.

Leeds: Meslier, Firpo, Ampadu, Cooper, Rodon, Gray, Roberts, Anthony, James, Joseph, Piroe.

Subs: Klaesson, Cresswell, Van den Heuvel, Byram, Shackleton, Kamara, Summerville, Gnonto, Bamford.

06:46 PM GMT

Brighton team news

06:46 PM GMT

Wolves team news

06:45 PM GMT

Numbers for the quarter-final draw

1 Newcastle United

2 Chelsea or Leeds United

3 Leicester City

4 Liverpool or Southampton

5 Nottingham Forest or Manchester United

6 Wolverhampton Wanderers or Brighton & Hove Albion

7 Coventry City

8 Manchester City

06:39 PM GMT

State of play in the fifth round

The draw for the quarter-finals is coming up at 7pm. Here is a rundown of the results so far in the fifth round and the games to come tonight:

Coventry 5-0 Maidstone United

Luton 2-6 Manchester City

Blackburn 1-1 Newcastle (Newcastle win 4-3 on penalties)

Bournemouth 0-1 Leicester (after extra time)

Chelsea v Leeds (7.30pm)

Nottingham Forest v Manchester United (7.45pm)

Wolves v Brighton (7.45pm)

Liverpool v Southampton (8pm)

06:31 PM GMT

Leeds team news

06:30 PM GMT

Chelsea team news

05:58 PM GMT

Punting tonight?

Having a bet on tonight’s matches? First take a look at the offers on these best betting sites.

05:54 PM GMT

Preview: Whither the yellow away kit?

Good evening and welcome to our FA Cup fifth-round clockwatch featuring the ties between Chelsea and Leeds United, kicking off at 7.30pm, Wolves and Brighton at 7.45pm and Liverpool vs Southampton at 8pm. In addition we have a separate blog running for Nottingham Forest vs Manchester United, which you can follow in the traditional minute by minute style.

First up is Leeds United’s first meeting with Chelsea in the FA Cup for 54 years, since the notorious final replay of 1970, still the most  popular TV match in British history, commanding an audience of 28 million to watch Chelsea’s victory in extra-time. That was Chelsea’s first FA Cup triumph but they have gone on to win  seven more, the latest in 2018 under Antonio Conte. Leeds would have to wait two years to win their one and only Cup and haven’t even made a quarter-final for 21 years. They have won all nine of their Championship games in 2024 as well as a draw and two wins in this competition but have late fitness doubts over their two most productive players, Georginio Rutter and Crysencio Summerville, and face a daunting Saturday-Tuesday-Friday schedule for their next three league games so may feature some of the benched irregulars at the Bridge.

It is 63 years and counting since Stan Cullis led Wolves to their fourth and so far last FA Cup and they haven’t been in a final since, blowing their best chance of a return when surrendering a 2-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the semi against Watford in 2019. Brighton failed to make their first Cup final return since 1983 only on penalties last season and were beaten in the last four in 2019 as well. Roberto De Zerbi’s side were 4-1 winners at Molineux back in August when Gary O’Neil had barely got his feet under the table never mind made much impact but things have improved dramatically since then with Wolves in ninth only a point behind Brighton in seventh, and they drew last month in dear old Sussex by the sea.

Liverpool, eight-time winners, most recently in 2022, have significant injury problems though Jürgen Klopp said yesterday that Dominik Szoboszlai, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Núñez, who missed Sunday’s Carabao Cup final victory, had outside chances. Wataru Endo, who played all 120 minutes of the final, is also nursing a knock. Either at the start or at some point, therefore, Klopp will back his kids again just like at Wembley. After a club record 22-match unbeaten run in the league, Saints have lost three of their last four and will surely use this as a free hit before their trip to St Andrew’s on Saturday. They won the Cup in yellow and blue in 1976 but will take on Liverpool tonight either in white and green or all black, emphasising once again the kit manufacturers’ and clubs’ enduring prejudice against yellow which tends to be beloved by fans, as home supporters recalling King Kenny in primrose would tell you.

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