The first domestic final of the year plays out at Wembley this Sunday, with two European heavyweights keen to add silverware to their recent impressive hauls. The current atrocities in Ukraine right now have rightly taken the country’s attention, and this occasion will surely be used to support a country under siege.
Chelsea will be making the short trip to North London, with a number of issues regarding player availability. Ben Chilwell and Reece James are definitely ruled out, with long term injuries for both. Recent games have seen Hakim Ziyech, Mateo Kovacic and Calum Hudson-Odoi pick up minor knocks, and late fitness tests will be needed to prove their fitness.
A 3-4-3 system will undoubtedly be maintained by manager Thomas Tuchel, that will see Thiago Silva flanked by Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen in defence. If Kovacic does not recover, it will mean N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho will start the game in a central midfield double pivot. The wing back options will see Marcos Alonso start on the left, and César Azpilicueta on the right. The attack is the only real area of question, with record signings Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz vying for the sole central striking role. The latter will start either way, but Lukaku may be preferred through the middle to add a more potent threat. Mason Mount is now available for selection, and will probably start this game, with Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic pushing for a start also. Edouard Mendy should start in goal.
Chelsea have a brilliant squad, but have often lacked the fluidity their squad should demand. With Liverpool likely to attack from the off, it will no doubt see Chelsea employ a patient approach and a deep defensive block. Restriction of space in behind their three man defence, will make counter attacks and set pieces a vital part of the Blues tactics, as frustration of the reds attack will be needed throughout.
Liverpool have nearly a fully fit squad, with only Bobby Firmino definitely ruled out. Diogo Jota is back in training, and should take his place on the bench. The defence will comprise Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip at its core, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at either fullback. The attack will almost certainly be that which has started the last two games, with Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz flanking Sadio Mane. All three are in ominous form, and will be looking to overload the blues rearguard.
In midfield their are two definite starters, with the brilliant pair of Thiago and Fabinho nailed on. Jordan Henderson has enjoyed good moments in the past few games, but the skipper as often found form lacking as an 8 this season. Naby Keita, Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones have all impressed at times, but the skipper should start this game given his seniority. Young Caoimhin Kelleher appears to be the starter in goal, with his run in this competition being rewarded by manager Jurgen Klopp.
A tight game, with limited chances is likely. Liverpool will endeavour with their brilliantly orchestrated high line, but Chelsea’s brilliant performances in recent finals make this a tantalising match up. A tactical battle will pit two German managers against one another, and how changes are made in game could be decisive.
Form is with the reds, but Chelsea are the European Champions. The game could well go beyond normal time, and substitutes will be a tool that could sway the result. However the game plays out, it should make for a great watch, and and enthralling final.
Player to watch – Edouard Mendy
Liverpool 2 – 1 Chelsea