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Olivier Giroud v David Luiz: The key FA Cup final battle no one predicted

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Olivier Giroud and David Luiz are set to go head to head in the FA Cup final on Saturday

Image credit: Getty Images

ByMichael Hincks
30/07/2020 at 16:59 | Updated 30/07/2020 at 18:58
@MichaelHincks

With the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea taking place on Saturday, we look at the potentially crucial battles that could decide the tie.

  • Arsenal and Chelsea dominant since 2000, but who needs cup win more in 2020?

Follow live text updates of the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea here on Saturday with kick-off 5.30pm BST

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David Luiz v Olivier Giroud

Opponents, team-mates, and now opponents once more.

Giroud was in red and Luiz in blue when the two sides last met at Wembley in the 2017 Community Shield. The pair have since switched clubs, but only after an overlap at Chelsea – where a friendship clearly blossomed.

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David Luiz marking Olivier Giroud in the Community Shield three years ago

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In May 2018 Giroud celebrated a goal against Liverpool by heading to the Chelsea bench to share the moment with an injured Luiz. “I know it’s difficult for [Luiz] because he is coming back from injury and it’s not easy when you see the boys training and you are having treatment and everything,” Giroud said. “He’s a good friend of mine … I told him it’s better for me to run to him.”

Luiz’s injury saw him miss the FA Cup final which Giroud started against Manchester United later that month, with an Eden Hazard penalty enough to hand Chelsea the cup.

A year later both Luiz and Giroud were in the starting XI when Chelsea dismantled Arsenal 4-1 over in Baku to win the Europa League. Giroud was on target, while for Luiz it proved to be his final game before heading to the Emirates.

David Luiz and Olivier Giroud celebrate after Eden Hazard scores their team's fourth goal during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal

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It is safe to say the pair have endured rollercoaster seasons, but they look set to start and brush shoulders on Saturday in a match-up that could prove vital.

In the red-now-blue corner, Giroud began the season very much Tammy Abraham’s back-up, but the French forward started seven Premier League matches after the restart – scoring six times as Chelsea secured a Champions League place.

In the blue-now-red corner, Luiz looked destined for the exit door at Arsenal with his contract expiring and a calamitous display gifting Manchester City all three points on June 17.

David Luiz saw red at Man City

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However, the centre back signed a new one-year deal a week later, and after a two-match spell out of the team he went on to start their last seven league games, cutting a rejuvenated figure.

On the biggest of stages Luiz will be out to prove this is more than just a mini-revival, and winning the battle with Giroud could go some way towards affirming that, and win Arsenal a trophy to boot.

But regardless of who comes out on top, no doubt the duo will elbow-bump ahead of kick-off while perhaps wearing wry smiles too. It is the face-off no one saw coming, but one which could decide the colour of the ribbons come Saturday night.

OTHER KEY BATTLES

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang v Cesar Azpilicueta

Chelsea’s switch to three at the back for their final two Premier League games, as well as the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, means Frank Lampard will be expected to do likewise against Arsenal in an attempt to stifle their front three.

Mikel Arteta has a decision to make up front between Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, and out on the right with Bukayo Saka or Nicolas Pepe, but captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is a near-certainty out on the left, where he will come up against Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.

Sometimes there is just no stopping Aubameyang, who ended the Premier League season with 22 goals with five more in other competitions, most notably the double which saw off Manchester City in the semi-final.

Chelsea’s most experienced defender will be tasked with smothering Arsenal’s biggest threat, and Azpilicueta will know this match-up will go some way towards deciding whether he or Aubameyang will be lifting the trophy in an empty Wembley.

Rob Holding v Christian Pulisic

At the opposite end of the pitch you have Arsenal’s right-sided centre back for their past two games up against arguably Chelsea’s brightest spark since the restart.

Christian Pulisic is Chelsea's danger man

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Rob Holding could well be having nightmares about marking Christian Pulisic in the build-up to Saturday. Pulisic has been dancing through defences for fun of late, and looks very much the player Chelsea were hoping to have in their arsenal when signing him for £60m last year.

A goal and assist against Liverpool capped off a fine June and July for Pulisic, and the American will be confident of winning this battle against Holding, who is far from sluggish in terms of speed, but may be a few matches short of the sharpness required to stop arguably Chelsea’s best player.

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