Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel will be waiting anxiously to discover he will have two key players available for the FA Cup final clash against Liverpool on Saturday. Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante will be assessed right up to kick-off as the pair bid to prove their fitness for the showpiece event at Wembley.
The Blues head coach refused to rule out Kovacic making a miraculous return just days after being forced off with injury. The Croatian picked up a knock in the challenge that saw Daniel James sent off against Leeds on Wednesday night.
But Tuchel said they would assess his fitness in training on Friday with the central midfielder desperate to feature: “We are hoping that maybe the time is enough that he makes it, but we will try it in training and then we will know more about it,” he said.
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell have been ruled out of the clash as it is still too early for the English pair to return. Otherwise, Tuchel has a strong squad to choose from — and Express Sport looks at how the west London club could line up at Wembley as they bid to win a third trophy this season.
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Defence — Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Rudiger
Trevoh Chalobah has proved to be a lucky charm for Chelsea this season, having not lost a game he has started for the Blues, and his solid display in the 3-0 win over Leeds may be enough to earn the 22-year-old a start at Wembley.
Antonio Rudiger is one of the first names on the teamsheet and looks most comfortable next to the compost Thiago Silva, whose vast experience in cup finals should hand Chelsea a boost at the back. Given how Andreas Christensen has struggled in recent games against Liverpool, it would not be a surprise to see the Barcelona-bound defender drop to the bench.
Midfield — James, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Alonso
A late fitness test for Kovacic and Kante will give Tuchel a last-minute call to make over his line-up. N’Golo Kante trained on Friday and may be fit enough for the bench after an unknown injury problem which has kept him out of action since April 28. If the pair do not recover in time, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the obvious choice to partner Jorginho in midfield.
The playmaker has enjoyed a run in the team of late and is ahead of the on-loan Spaniard Saul Niguez in the pecking order. Reece James’ form makes him an automatic starter at wing-back and Marcos Alonso should line up on the left flank, with Tuchel unlikely to switch to a back four that would bring Malang Sarr into contention for a start.
Forwards — Mount, Lukaku, Werner
The German has already hinted he could start Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz together after the Belgian’s return to form with three goals in two games: ”I can play both, although they lacked a bit of a perfect fit together,” he added. “It’s very likely that’s it’s one of the two but we will not give the line-up today.
But Tuchel knows that would mean reverting to more of a 3-4-1-2, which may rob his side of the width required to stretch Liverpool’s defence. It seems more likely that Timo Werner, who has four goals and two assists in his last eight appearances, will line up in a three-man attack with Lukaku and Mason Mount. Christian Pulisic, who scored against Leeds, may also be in contention.