Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea players will march out at Wembley for their second Cup final of the season and see this as a match to salvage what could have been a bountiful season.
Following a thrilling Champions League winning campaign last season and the addition of Romelu Lukaku fresh from title triumph in Italy with Inter, many felt that Chelsea were going to give Liverpool and Man City a great run for the title. And they started out so.
Following a home draw with Wolves – from being two goals up – there is even a danger that the 3rd position that seemed cast iron theirs could be up for grabs. Arsenal and Spurs can smell blood.
Right across the squad, Chelsea have quality and can make changes that will not necessarily drop their levels on the pitch which is why their falling off the title race is very difficult to understand.
They will have to shove all of that aside in this final with Liverpool. All their three previous meetings this season have been cracking matches and have all ended square – proof that both teams are of equal strength on the pitch and in the technical area.
Last season, Chelsea lost this same final to a superb Youri Tielemen’s (L) strike and two late Kasper Schmeichel saves. Most of the players that afternoon against Leicester City will be around this Saturday against Liverpool and should use the feeling of the loss as a motivation to go one better.
There are many Chelsea fans who believe that Lukaku’s interview with an Italian media outlet derailed their campaign, the results following it and the big man not getting into the side for many weeks after could support this view. The Belgium national team record goal scorer knows that Saturday provides him a great opportunity for restoration in the minds and hearts of those fans.
Tuchel himself will have to take a look how he and the players have handled critical situations in the season. The aforementioned Lukaku interview and the Champions League ouster at the hands of Real Madrid.
Chelsea can be breathtaking to watch when in full working order. The movements of Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, the speed and penetration of Timo Werner allied to the twinkle toes of Mateo Kovacic, the prompting of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante’s industry really make the south-west Londoners a match for any top team and better than the rest.
Peep the destruction of Southampton at St Mary’s.
The use of three central defenders to protect the legs of Thiago Silva means that they add Reece James and Marcos Alonso as attacking threats – there are not many better than these two in their positions in the league.
Statisticians might bring a different story but it will be hard to imagine that there is another team in England that creates as many chances without converting them as the Blues. They are incredibly wasteful, it has cost them a lot in many matches.
On Saturday at Wembley, they are unlikely to create that many so they must be ready to convert the ones they do create if they are to salvage the season, Liverpool did not get to chasing the quadruple by giving up many chances to the opposition.