MARTIN KEOWN ON THE FA CUP FINAL: Chelsea can punish Liverpool in the same way they did Manchester City in the Champions League final
- This FA Cup final has all the makings of an epic battle between two great teams
- Chelsea and Liverpool have faced each other three times across this season
- All of those games between the two sides have ended in draws after 90 minutes
Fittingly for its 150th anniversary, this FA Cup final has all the makings of an epic battle between two great tacticians and their teams.
Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea have been on a tempestuous journey. He is heading into his fifth final in 15 months, and Chelsea can currently brag that they’re the Club World Cup holders, but they have been surrounded by uncertainty of late.
Chelsea can punish Liverpool in the FA Cup Final in the same way they did Manchester City
Blues’ Kai Havertz scored after a lightning counter-attack in the 2021 Champions League final
They’ve only picked up eight points from the last 18 available amid those ownership issues. Now that’s being resolved off the field, I expect results to return on it, and the immediate challenge facing Tuchel is Liverpool on Saturday evening.
Mateo Kovacic being fit to feature would be a big boost for Chelsea. He brings control in midfield alongside the energetic N’Golo Kante and has become a trusted lieutenant for Tuchel.
Chelsea know they face an uphill battle in terms of keeping the ball. That is just a consequence of playing Liverpool. Or Manchester City, for that matter.
Last season’s Champions League final saw Chelsea manage only 39 per cent possession against City.
But they won 1-0 because of a lightning counter-attack, going from their own goalkeeper to the opposition goal in less than 10 seconds, scoring via Kai Havertz. That is an area I am sure they will be targeting against Liverpool on Saturday.
Midfielder Mateo Kovacic (centre) being fit would be a massive boost for Thomas Tuchel’s side
Tuchel (pictured) knows it will be hard to keep possession against the Reds in Saturday’s final
In Havertz, Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku, who are all rapid, Chelsea have the firepower to test their opponents in this way if they can beat the offside trap.
It won’t be easy, of course, given the quality of centre back Virgil van Dijk and either Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip, who are forever ready to sweep up danger as the last line of defence.
But it is ominous that Lukaku has been brought back into the team just in time for this final, scoring three goals in two games. He’s put himself back in the picture and will want to lead the line for Chelsea, potentially becoming the hero.
I love the nostalgia of the FA Cup. The romance. The TV coverage. All of it. How can you not love a competition in which a part-time player who works as, say, a postman is given the chance to deliver a giantkilling?
It’s special, and every player who was part of it reaching this stage at Wembley Stadium can sit back proudly on Saturday and enjoy two terrific teams going head-to-head.
It is ominous that Romelu Lukaku has been brought back into the team just in time for this final
It won’t be easy given the quality of Reds defenders Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate (left)
It’s the 150th anniversary of a competition that was the brainchild of former player Charles Alcock.
As the sport’s oldest competition, it was the forerunner to the elite football that we enjoy on Saturday, including the Premier League.
So, the FA Cup deserves respect and must return to its rightful place as the last game of the English season.
There’s something special about two sets of players walking out of the tunnel at Wembley, knowing they’re the only ones still playing in the domestic season.
Whenever Arsenal lost in the FA Cup, like in the semi-finals of 1999, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the final. It deserves to round off the season.