FOR both managers there is more than just an FA Cup winner’s medal at stake tomorrow afternoon. Carlo Ancelotti, having already attained hero status at Chelsea, is seeking the immortality that comes with leading the club to its first double. His opponent, Avram Grant, has the incentive of revenge over the team who sacked him, and fashioning a happy ending from what has been a disastrous campaign.
Ancelotti has already matched Jose Mourinho, the man against whom all Blues managers are measured, by returning the Premier League trophy to Stamford Bridge in his first season. Having endured constant comparisons with his predecessor since arriving in England, he now has the chance to eclipse him by adding the FA Cup – a trophy that eluded the Special One until his third season.
To lay his ghost to rest, the Italian will need to at least repeat Mourinho’s feat of back-to-back league titles, or succeed where he failed and deliver the prize Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich craves most: the Champions League. But making history in his maiden year would be a superb start and should quieten the faction who will forever mourn Mourinho’s departure.
Grant, meanwhile, must be wondering how he has reached the final with a club suffering the worst financial crisis seen in the top flight. Forced to sell his best players as Portsmouth’s outfit’s debt mushroomed to £135m, he now has the chance to make an unlikely triumph sweeter still. How the Israeli would relish reminding Abramovich of his qualities, having been unceremoniously ditched after less than a season despite almost leading Chelsea to Champions League glory.
HEAD TO HEAD: BOSSES AT A GLANCE
Born: Reggiolo, Italy Age: 50
Previous teams: Milan, Juventus, Parma, Reggiana
Managerial honours: Premier League (2010), Champions League (2003, 2007), World Club Cup (2007), Uefa Super Cup (2003, 2007), Serie A (2004), Coppa Italia (2003)
Born: Petah Tikvah, Israel Age: 55
Previous teams: Chelsea, Israel, Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Haifa, Hapoel Petah Tikvah
Managerial honours: Israeli League (1992, 1995, 2001, 2002), Israeli Cup (1990, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2002)