FA Cup glory in sight for Chelsea and Manchester City
City go into the game buoyed by their 2-1 victory at derby rivals United in the Premier League on Monday, although the leaders' advantage remains an imposing 12 points. Improbably, Sunday's game represents the first encounter between the teams in the FA Cup since 1971, when City prevailed 3-0 in a fourth-round tie at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City and holders Chelsea will both seek to transform underwhelming domestic seasons when the two Premier League heavyweights clash in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The pair have failed to keep pace with Manchester United in the league, and although Chelsea have also reached the last four in the Europa League, the FA Cup represents City's only realistic chance of ending the season with some silverware.
As an added incentive, the other semi-final features second-tier Millwall and perennial Premier League relegation candidates Wigan Athletic, so whoever emerges victorious on Sunday will be overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez and his City counterpart Roberto Mancini, meanwhile, would each dearly love to end difficult seasons by winning the FA Cup for a second time.
City won 2-0 when the sides last met, at the Etihad Stadium in late February, but Benitez says he has learnt his lessons from that encounter.
"We know it'll be difficult, but it's a semi-final in a massive competition," said the Spaniard, an FA Cup-winner with Liverpool in 2006.
"We know what we did wrong against them in the league and we'll make sure we don't make the same mistakes.
"They're a good team, with a strong squad. They have a manager with experience and they have confidence at the moment. We know we'll have to do our best if we want to progress."
City go into the game buoyed by their 2-1 victory at derby rivals United in the Premier League on Monday, although the leaders' advantage remains an imposing 12 points.
That inability to remain in United's slipstream has put pressure on Mancini, but his side are still on course to collect a major trophy for the third season in succession.
City's victory over Stoke City in the 2011 FA Cup final ended a 35-year trophy drought and Mancini is looking forward to returning to the scene of that watershed success.
"I think to play at Wembley is fantastic. For all the supporters there is a magic moment," he said.
"Every trophy is important for every team. For us, more so, because we have this chance to go to the final and win the second FA Cup in three years."
Mancini says he will give David Silva until the day of the game to prove his fitness, after the Spanish midfielder sustained a hamstring injury in Monday's win at United.
"We will decide, I think, on Sunday morning," said the Italian.
"We don't know if it is possible and if there is a risk, he will not play, but if there is not, then maybe."
Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score a memorable winning goal at Old Trafford, and if Silva is ruled out, the wily Argentine could be the man to benefit.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres took his tally for the season to 20 goals with a deft lob in his side's Europa League game away to Rubin Kazan in Moscow on Thursday.
However, the Spaniard may not hold onto his starting position after Demba Ba was passed fit to play despite sustaining an ankle problem in last weekend's 2-1 win over Sunderland.
England international defenders Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill remain sidelined through injury, while Cole's most likely deputy, Ryan Bertrand, is a slight doubt due to illness.
Improbably, Sunday's game represents the first encounter between the teams in the FA Cup since 1971, when City prevailed 3-0 in a fourth-round tie at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea will be defending a formidable record at the stadium, having won all seven of the games they have played in the competition beneath the Wembley arch since the stadium re-opened in 2007.
City, though, are yet to let in a goal in the competition and are bidding to become the first team to reach the final without conceding since Everton in 1966.