Wembley Stadium is the setting for the 131st staging of English football’s showpiece match as Chelsea lock horns with Liverpool in the 2012 FA Cup Final, renewing a rivalry that has produced some thrilling encounters in recent seasons.
ITV and ESPN will again provide comprehensive coverage of the day’s events, with the subscription broadcaster providing commercial-free and 3D coverage of the match itself.
Chelsea go into this clash as the slight favourites, having lifted this trophy in three of the last five seasons and thrashed local rivals Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 in their semi-final here.
This is Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish’s fourth final in two spells as Liverpool manager, while Chelsea are competing in their fourth final since Wembley was re-opened in 2007.
Interim coach Roberto di Matteo has overseen a dramatic transformation since taking over in March following the removal of Andre Villas-Boas.
Di Matteo guided the Blues to a Champions League final in dramatic circumstances with an improbable victory over European giants Barcelona in the semi-final, and an FA Cup final with a controversial victory over Tottenham in the semi-final.
The Italian has his own special piece FA Cup final history, having scored for Chelsea in their triumphs in 1997 and 2000.
Dalglish’s men enjoyed a hard-fought victory over neighbours Everton in the last four and have defeated the Londoners twice at Stamford Bridge this term, winning 2-1 in the Premier League in November and then prevailing 2-0 later that month in the League Cup.
The Reds have seven FA Cup triumphs to their name, the first came under the great Bill Shankly in 1965, while Rafa Benitez was the last Liverpool manager to bring the trophy back to Merseyside, beating West Ham United on penalties at the Millennium Stadium six years ago.
Liverpool’s league form has faltered, but in cup competition the Reds have recaptured the glory years.
Victory today would complete a domestic cup double after Kenny Dalglish’s side lifted the Carling Cup earlier this season.
For the first time in 2012, the FA Cup Final has moved from its traditional 3pm kick-off time to 5.15pm, in a bid to attract a larger viewing audience for broadcasters.
It will be the first FA Cup Final to be played under floodlights at Wembley Stadium in almost 20 years, with the last being Arsenal’s replay win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 when a last-minute header from Andy Linighan in extra-time sealed a 2-1 victory for the Gunners.
Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield will be the chief gest of honour and will present the famous trophy to the winning captain at the end of the match.
Phil Dowd has been selected to referee his first FA Cup Final this year, and will be assisted by Stuart Burt and Andrew Garratt, along with fourth official Michael Jones and reserve assistant referee Simon Long.
Here’s SOTB’s guide to when and where to watch 2012 FA Cup Final:
ITV will provide free-to-air coverage of the 2012 FA Cup Final, presented by Adrian Chiles live from Wembley.
Build-up to the big match begins two hours before kick-off, which is packed with special behind-the-scenes features and interviews with the key personalities who will go head-to-head on the famous Wembley turf.
Studio analysis throughout the afternoon comes from four-times FA Cup winner Roy Keane, 1985 winner Gordon Strachan and and two-time runner-up Gareth Southgate.
Roving reports, team news, interviews and features during the build-up and post-match will be provided by Gabriel Clarke and Ned Boulting.
Match commentary comes from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend.
If you miss any of the action during the day, Matt Smith will present highlights of later in the evening on ITV1.
Coverage is also available to watch in high-definition on ITV1 HD.FA Cup Final LIVE - ITV1 – 3.15pm-7.45pm Highlights – ITV1 – 10.25pm-11.25pm
Once again in 2012, ESPN will present unrivalled all-day coverage of the FA Cup Final, starting at 8am and finishing at 8pm, including commercial-free coverage of the match itself from 4.45pm.
The broadcaster will continue to revive the tradition of broadcasting all day around the final of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition, with a host of dedicated programmes, documentaries and special live editions of the channel’s signature football shows.
ESPN’s Matchday coverage begins at 2.30pm and will be presented by Rebecca Lowe, who becomes the first woman on UK television to anchor live coverage of an FA Cup Final.
Lowe will be joined by regular pundits Kevin Keegan, John Barnes and Craig Burley plus special guests in the build-up to the 5.15pm kick off, as well as pre-match analysis using the channel’s new analysis tool ESPN Arena from Darrell Currie and Martin Keown.
ESPN will bring fans the FA Cup Final commercial-free from 4.45pm (kick-off 5.15pm) through to the trophy presentation, giving viewers an uninterrupted countdown to the game, the celebrations afterwards, and a break-free half time with highlights and analysis.
Commentary on the final will come from Jon Champion and Chris Waddle, and reports and interviews provided by Darrell Currie and Dave Beckett.
ESPN’s FA Cup Final coverage will also be available in 3D via the Sky 3D channel, with commentary from Derek Rae and guest.Build-up programming – ESPN – 8am-2.30pm Matchday LIVE – ESPN – 2.30pm-4.45pm FA Cup Final LIVE (Commercial Free) – ESPN - 4.45pm-8pm
CLICK HERE for full details of ESPN’s FA Cup Final coverage