CHELSEA VS LIVERPOOL: FA CUP FINAL PREVIEW
Liverpool head to Wembley again when they take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final tomorrow. These two sides contested the League Cup final back in February with the Reds coming out on top after a marathon penalty shootout. Here’s a match preview.
For a look at six key battles that could decide the final, you can head here.
It now seems ages ago when Chelsea topped the Premier League and looked like they would at the very least challenge the duopoly of Manchester City and Liverpool. Tuchel’s side have suffered a torrid second half of the season which has seen them fall way off the pace.
They currently lie 16 points behind the Reds in the table and have to win their penultimate league game to secure a top four finish. A far cry from the first part of the season when they looked like genuine title contenders.
The Blues responded to the shootout defeat at the hands of Liverpool by winning their next six games in all competitions. It has all unravelled since the March international break however. Off field problems haven’t helped, with owner Roman Abramovic being forced to sell the club.
In their 11 matches since the last international break, they’ve won just 5, drawing twice and losing 4 times. Their previously impregnable defence has been breached on 17 occasions in that run. Before then, their last 17 goals were conceded across 26 matches.
They are scoring at around the same rate but they are conceding more than twice as many goals as they used to. This suggests Liverpool met a stronger version of Chelsea in the League Cup final. As we know though, finals are one off matches so form could count for nothing.
Liverpool have pretty much flown at the same speed since clinching a record ninth League Cup trophy. In the 18 games since, Jürgen Klopp’s side have won 14, drawn 3 and lost just once. That defeat (to Inter) was inconsequential as they had gotten the job of progression in the Champions League all but done at the San Siro.
It is that relentless run of victory after victory that has seen this Liverpool side being spoken of as the best in the club’s history. They have developed into a real juggernaut. Nothing seems to knock them out of their stride. Tomorrow will be their 60th match of the season.
Over the past ten days, it has seemed the workload could be a problem. The Reds have fallen behind in each of their last three games. They of course came back to beat Villarreal and Aston Villa, but the draw against Spurs saw them drop two vital points in the race for the title.
Before this run, the Reds had conceded the first goal in a game just three times in their previous 18 fixtures. The press is still there for all to see so it doesn’t look like a case of physical fatigue. It could be more mental than anything. A few players look like they’re missing that sharpness at the minute.
The Reds will be looking to put all that behind them to lift their eighth FA Cup and a first since 2006. They overcame Shrewsbury, Cardiff, Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City to reach the final, whilst Chelsea knocked out Chesterfield, Plymouth, Luton Town, Middlesborough and Crystal Palace.
The Blues are in search of a ninth FA Cup success. They have lost three of their last four finals however, with victory over Manchester United in 2018 being overshadowed by defeats to Arsenal in 2017 and 2020, as well as Leicester City last year.
These two sides last met in the FA Cup final back in 2012, with Chelsea winning in controversial circumstances. They had a two goal lead till Andy Carroll pulled one back. Carroll seemed to have drawn his side level when his header was scrambled away.
Replays proved inconclusive as to whether the ball had crossed the line, and with goalline technology not yet implemented the referee waved away Liverpool’s appeals. It ended 2-1. Henderson remains the only player remaining from that night and will be hoping to lead the side to a sixth piece of silverware as captain.
It’s been three stalemates in the three meetings between these two sides this season; 1-1, 2-2 and 0-0. Chelsea are the only side in Europe’s top five leagues to have played more matches than Liverpool this season, so both sides will want to avoid extra time tomorrow. It promises to be another tight encounter.
For Liverpool, Fabinho has been ruled out with a hamstring strain. The Brazilian limped off against Aston Villa on Tuesday night but is expected to be back for the Champions League final. For Chelsea, Chilwell and Hudson-Odoi have both been ruled out.
Kante and Kovacic are however likely to be risked from the start. Kante has been out since late April but returned to training yesterday whilst Kovacic was on the end of a nasty Daniel James tackle on Wednesday night.
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