Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is relishing a “special” FA Cup final against former club Chelsea.
Cech won the Premier League and FA Cup four times apiece during a decorated Chelsea career, which also included glory in three EFL Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League before he joined Arsenal in 2015.
His former employers are on course to be crowned champions of England once more this time around and are expected to have the double in their sights at Wembley next month, having seen off Tottenham 4-2 in a thrilling semi-final.
Arsenal needed extra time to defeat Manchester City 2-1 in a similarly pulsating encounter on Sunday and Cech hopes for a memorable reunion with old friends.
“Yes, it’s going to be special,” he said. “Every FA Cup final is special in itself and, obviously, I’ll play against a team where I had huge success and spent so many wonderful years.
“Hopefully I will be the one who goes celebrating after.”
Backers of an Arsenal success against Pep Guardiola’s side were probably in a minority at the weekend after Sergio Aguero deftly got the better of Cech to give City a 62nd-minute lead.
But Nacho Monreal fired Arsene Wenger’s side level and Cech touched a Yaya Toure volley against the post before Alexis Sanchez pounced during the additional period.
It was a victory that the 34-year-old goalkeeper felt offered a convincing answer to critics who have questioned Arsenal’s character amid dwindling form over recent months.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 23, 2017
“I think it’s easy to hide behind saying, ‘we lack leaders, they lack leaders, these guys have’,” he said.
“You need to see what’s happening behind the scenes, how well the team works and how we operate.
“Sometimes, obviously, you have periods of the game where you have prepared, you’ve done the right things but the game starts and it goes completely wrong.
“We had a difficult period when the team was losing games it shouldn’t have lost and then you come to the situation where you play under pressure and need to find a way out.
“Sometimes you find a way out quickly, sometimes it takes a little bit of time and it can cause damage.
“I think the most important thing [against City] was the discipline of the whole team and the effort. Everybody stuck to the plan and the individual performances were brilliant.
“It was a very difficult game against a very difficult opponent. At times they have been brilliant, even in this game although they lost. It was very difficult but we managed to find the answers.”
Arsenal return to Premier League action with a home match against Leicester City on Wednesday.
They lie seventh in the table, albeit with games in hand on the sides above them, and their situation means Cech does not believe they can afford to bask in a satisfying moment of cup success.
“I think we’re going to be under pressure in every game from now,” he added. “With the position we are in in the league there is no other option.
“We need to keep getting three points every game to hope that we can get the automatic qualification for the Champions League next season.
“This is going to be one challenge and, secondly, you play football to win big games and to be involved in the big occasions.
“You want to play in finals. I think everybody showed that it’s not only about coming to take part in a semi-final and hoping it is going to be your day.”