CHELSEA VS. LIVERPOOL
| Saturday, May 14th |
FA Cup Final | Wembley Stadium, London
4:45PM GMT/12:45PM EST
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell are ruled out for the final, while N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovačić are [cue shock] in training and will likely be available for Chelsea.
While Thomas Tuchel doesn’t seem a manager who would risk fielding players who are not fully fit because he’s worried about the opposition or the fact that it’s a final, if either questionable players is even slightly off-pace in a game that promises to be very high intensity would benefit the Reds massively.
Chelsea have been in poor form recently — though it must be said that Liverpool have looked less than great in the past two matches. Since going out of the Champions League to Real Madrid in the quarter finals, Chelsea have: beat Crystal Palace (2-0); lost to Arsenal (2-4); beat 10-men West Ham narrowly and late (1-0); drew at Manchester United (1-1); lost to Everton (1-0); drew with Wolves (2-2); and beat a 10-man Leeds United (3-0).
As a set of results, they’re hard to draw conclusions from — and they’re strange performances as well. Because their top-four position seemed safe and because they’ve been knocked out of the European Cup it’s possible their performances reflect the fact that they’ve got nothing to play for (“on the beach,” as it were). It can be hard to return to top performance levels after not having to go to the well for weeks on end, but then there’s always The Chelsea v. Liverpool Rule”
They always manage to turn it on against Liverpool. Always.
Should be a tight one, and often a disjointed one, since our tactics don’t line up in an aesthetically pleasing way (unlike when Liverpool play Manchester City, for example).
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Keïta, Thiago; Salah, Mané, Díaz
Fabinho went off with a hamstring injury against Aston Villa, and since he’s been confirmed as being “back for the Champions League Final” we can assume he won’t be available Saturday. It’s unclear how serious his injury is (though he did seem very off the pace before feeling his hamstring) — Klopp has not confirmed whether he could come back earlier, adding “[about featuring] before [Paris], we will see. We don’t know, that’s it.”
Otherwise Liverpool are fully fit, and with Roberto Firmino returning to the bench (though not getting any minutes) at Aston Villa we can assume that Jürgen Klopp has a full squad available for selection.
Given the Fabinho injury, you would expect Jordan Henderson to start as the 6. Chelsea’s midfield are hard-working and high-intensity, and the two who start with him will need to be up for the task of shutting that down. Klopp could go Thiago and Naby Keïta, though a surprise inclusion of James Milner would not be completely out of the blue.
In general, all choices are good ones. The back five asks the manager to choose between Joël Matip and Ibrahima Konaté — both of whom have had an excellent season. The front three will be three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, Luis Díaz, and Diogo Jota. Any three would be sound.
Of course it should be said that this game could go to 120 minutes, and the manager will have a substitution plan ready for that. The suggested team I predicted above feels less likely in this circumstance because starting all of the fast front three at first feels like it removes the possibility of an infusion of pace after Chelsea have tired. There’s an argument for anything. I can’t think that any team sheet will be disappointing, mind.
Just win, the Reds.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “We didn’t ‘beat’ Chelsea. We won the shootout. I’ve said a few times without luck you have no chance and luck was on our side that day. We know how good Chelsea are. Both teams will go for it. We are really looking forward to the opportunity. It is a massive final for us and we are really happy that we are a part of it. We are desperate to win it but the opponent is the same. Since Liverpool won it in 2006, Chelsea have won it three or four times. Perhaps we could say that they have won it enough! They are very organized defensively and offensively, incredible talent. We have no idea how Thomas Tuchel will line up because they have so many options: Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, and completely different Romelu Lukaku and Mason Mount.”
Thomas Tuchel: “I think it can be anything, a shot from the post and deflected on the post out or the post in. It can be a set piece. Look at the big chances we had, they had too in the Carabao Cup. It can be about who gets the lead first, who gets a grip. You have to be spot on in these kinds of matches. Such close matches lately. Decisions, sometimes red cards, a mistake here, we came back at Stamford Bridge, they came back at Anfield with a penalty and we had to dig in with ten men. A lot of stories. I think that’s why we cannot focus on one singular point. I agree with you, it will be down to margins. It will be down to details within the match. We are facing one of the very best coaches and teams in the world right now. It is obvious and proven over the last years and recent weeks. We are up for the fight.”
Referee: Craig Pawson Assistants: Dan Cook, Edward Smart Fourth Official: David Coote VAR: Paul Tierney (yep) Assistant VAR: Simon Bennett
Kickoff is set for 4:45PM GMT/12:45PM EST tomorrow. In the meantime, The Liverpool Offside team will keep you updated with all of the team news and match buildup as it becomes available, along with providing a matchday liveblog and post-match recaps and reaction. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account and have your say on the action as it happens.