By Daniel Ghorbal
It is not often two teams face each other in consecutive domestic cup finals, but for both Liverpool and Chelsea that is exactly the case. A dramatic League Cup ended with a 11-10 penalty victory in the favour of Liverpool, and for this upcoming FA Cup final the reds’ London opposition will be keen for revenge in their final attempt for silverware.
Thomas Tuchel has been a superb addition to Chelsea, but this season has been an interesting one with regards to adversity, some misfortune and cruel defeats. Coming into the cup final, the German knows that their season will be deemed as a failure if they are unable to beat Liverpool and gain some silverware. It is undoubted that they are one of the worlds best teams on their day, but finding consistency has been a tough ask for them since the turn of the year.
A convincing 3-0 victory at Leeds was the perfect way to build confidence ahead of this showpiece Wembley final, a chance for key players to get minutes and find a rhythm. None more so than Romelu Lukaku who has had arguably the best week of his Chelsea career thus far with three goals and a much improved attitude. Lukaku made headlines for the wrong reasons after an explosive interview he gave with Sky Italia, and to say it was a distraction to his form would be an understatement. The Belgian was evidently out of favour and struggled to get a run of games, but has had a positive week and comes into the final with confidence.
Whether or not he will start against Liverpool is a different question, but if he is called upon then it is a prospect Klopp needs to think about a lot prior to kick off. One thing that has been criticised a lot is the service into Lukaku but with Mount and James on top form at the minute too, key men are beginning to purr at the perfect time. James was only fit enough to be a substitute in the final against Liverpool last time, but similarly to Alexander-Arnold, his impact on the Chelsea team is absolutely massive. A provider of key chances, James’ passing range is superb whilst he bolsters great defensive attributes. Against Luis Diaz or Sadio Mane, James’ strength will be pivotal to keep some of the reds’ key men at bay.
Likewise, Mount is a tricky customer and has arguably been Chelsea’s most consistent performer this season. He has the most goal contributions of any Chelsea player this season and the figures are justified by his overall game. He could and should have scored multiple goals against Liverpool in the league cup final, all chances generated by his clever runs into space and awareness of where he is on the pitch. Without Fabinho, it is vital that Liverpool pick up Mount at all times to ensure he can’t strut his stuff.
Defensively, Chelsea were largely considered as one of the strongest units in Europe, but due to constant rotation, injuries and need for change they have struggled at times in recent weeks. Firstly, mainstay Antonio Rudiger has confirmed he is leaving the club at the end of the season and therefore potentially disrupted the rhythm of things, and similarly Christensen is going through a situation like that and has struggled at stages too.
The likes of Chalobah and Azpilicueta have filled in admirably at times, but there is a clear drop off when the elite level defenders aren’t playing and therefore results drop too. Against Liverpool, whoever starts at the back will need to fulfil the role with upmost confidence to ensure that they are not only able to deal with the threat of the forwards, but also to provide good service into midfielders and wide players.
The FA Cup final is a momentous occasion in the football calendar and you get the impression both of these teams will be bang up for the fight. The first cup was decided by a crazy penalty shootout and it wouldn’t be staggering if the game was settled in a similar manner for this one. For Chelsea, with champions league all but wrapped up, this is do or die with regards to their season. Liverpool will still have a slim chance of the Premier league but also have the huge champions league final upcoming too, so Klopp will be wanting to use this as a perfect rehearsal of that. Wembley awaits.
Chelsea predicted team: Mendy, James, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Silva, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Mount, Werner, Havertz