x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Meeting of Dalglish and Di Matteo make this an odd FA Cup Final

A pair of managers who have guided their teams to two major finals apiece this season possess sparse certainty about their future.

Dirk Kuyt, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool in training prior to the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Dirk Kuyt, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool in training prior to the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

There is no way around it: this is an odd FA Cup Final.

The late kick-off on a day when a key Premier League fixture, Arsenal versus Norwich City, will already have been played, and more than a week ahead of that competition's climax.

The realisation that Chelsea versus Liverpool pits a club that is likely to end the season ranked as England's sixth best against another that is struggling to remain eighth.

And the strange dynamic of the dugouts, where a pair of managers who have guided their teams to two major finals apiece this season possess sparse certainty about their future.

Kenny Dalglish has already won the League Cup - Liverpool's first trophy in six years - yet knows his American employers considered firing him last month before doing away with a director of football instead.

Roberto Di Matteo has taken Chelsea from a seemingly terminal Champions League knock-out round loss to a European final, throwing in this Wembley encounter for good measure.

The Italian has had two months as "interim first-team coach", lost just two of 17 matches, yet has not been told whether claiming two trophies or one will make his post permanent.

If it was down to the will of Chelsea supporters, Di Matteo would already have been appointed.

Yet whatever owner Roman Abramovich is, he is no populist when it comes to the football club that has sucked up close to a £1 billion (Dh5.95bn) of his material wealth.

Everyone at Chelsea knows that the Champions League is the prize their owner covets above all others, but the Russian has not promised his latest manager that delivering it will come with a new contract.

It is the will of the Liverpool supporters that has stayed the hand of John W Henry and his co-investors from dismissing Dalglish.

Fenway Sports Group bought into English football to make money, pure and simple. Back-to-back failures to even reach the Champions League and a series of errant player purchases had no part of their planning.

Ask Di Matteo about the future and he will reply with a characteristically astute line that his lies in the present.

Ask Dalglish and you will be lucky to be allowed another question.

Odd clubs, odd times, an odd old Final.

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