Eden Hazard v Nemanja Matic: The key battle in the FA Cup final

The 2018 FA Cup final takes place between Chelsea and Manchester United on Saturday with both sides looking to secure their first silverware this season. A win for United would see them equal Arsenal’s record of 13 FA Cup final victories while a win for Chelsea would be their eighth overall and fifth in the last 12 seasons.

If Chelsea are to win Eden Hazard is likely to have an influential role in a midfield battle against his old team-mate Nemanja Matic. The pair spent three-and-a-half years together at Stamford Bridge between January 2014 and July 2017 before Matic departed for Old Trafford.

Eden Hazard’s goal involvement Season Goals Assists Total Mins per involvement 2012/13 13 19 32 141 2013/14 17 8 25 158 2014/15 19 11 30 148 2015/16 6 7 13 237 2016/17 17 7 24 140 2017/18 16 12 28 130

In all competitions this season Hazard leads Chelsea in goals (16) and assists (12) and has the best minutes-per-goal involvement (every 130 mins) in any of his six seasons at the club.

If United are to contain Hazard, Matic is likely to play a key role against his former side. In the first season since his £40m move, Matic has been one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s team-sheet. No player has made more starts for the club this season.

Nemanja Matic in 2017/18 Category Total Man Utd rank Passes 2601 1st Successful passes 2281 1st Passes in opposition third 1358 1st Passes into final third 333 1st Touches 3117 1st Recoveries 317 1st Tackles 70 1st Interceptions 64 1st Distance covered 409 km 1st

In the Premier League, Matic topped the charts for Manchester United in a number of statistical categories, making more passes, having more touches and running further than any of his team-mates.

One category where Matic particularly excels is ball recoveries. Of outfield players in the Premier League this season only Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure (345) made more ball recoveries, while since his return to English football with Chelsea in 2014 he has made more ball recoveries than any other outfield player.

Since Nemanja Matic’s return in January 2014 Player Ball recoveries Nemanja Matic 1228 Mark Noble 970 N’Golo Kante 913 Gareth Barry 897 Steven Davis 886

As both teams look to avoid a season without silverware, the battle between Hazard and Matic could go a long way to deciding the destiny of the trophy.

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