Thomas Tuchel has predicted more of the same as we face Liverpool for the fourth time this season, anticipating a closely matched game which could be decided by fine margins.
All three of our previous fixtures with the Reds in 2021/22 have ended all square, with draws home and away in the Premier League followed by a penalty shoot-out loss after 120 goalless minutes at Wembley in February’s Carabao Cup final.
Ahead of our next meeting, back at Wembley for tomorrow’s FA Cup final, our head coach is expecting another close match between two evenly matched teams.
‘Anything else will surprise me,’ said Tuchel. ‘It started with last season’s win at Anfield and very early in this season with a draw at Anfield, then a draw at Stamford Bridge and then a draw over 120 minutes and 20-something penalties.
‘So very close matches, very intense matches and we needed always our very highest level to compete. But we found it in the matches and I don’t expect crazy new things from them, and actually also not from us. So the game is on tomorrow, it’s a big final, a big competition and we want to be spot on.’
Another tight match between Chelsea and Liverpool also means one moment of magic, one refereeing decision or one mistake could determine the destination of the FA Cup trophy, with the German acknowledging his players will need to be focused throughout with such fine margins involved.
‘I think it can be anything. It can be a shot from the post and it’s deflected, from the post out or post in. Look at the big chances we had in the Carabao Cup and they had big chances. It can be a set-piece, it can be who gets the lead first, who gets a grip.
‘You have to be spot on in these kinds of matches, which were such close matches lately with decisions, sometimes red cards, sometimes a big mistake. We came back at Stamford Bridge, they came back at Anfield with a penalty and we had to dig in with 10 men. So a lot of different stories.
‘That’s why I think we cannot focus on one single point, but it will be down to margins and it will be down to details within the match. We are facing one of the very best coaches and one of the very best teams in the world right now, this is obvious and proven over the last years and recent weeks, and we are up for the fight.’
Despite the many successes we have enjoyed under Tuchel since he arrived in west London in January last year, lifting the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup trophies, this represents a chance for our head coach to claim his first piece of domestic silverware in England.
Following defeats to Leicester City in last season’s FA Cup final and Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final earlier this year, he is obviously eager to get his hands on this trophy, but feels this game will not single-handedly determine whether Chelsea can count 2021/22 as a successful campaign.
‘First of all it’s a big achievement to be in these finals and there has to be unfortunately a loser. It’s a special energy, it’s a special atmosphere, a special momentum that you have to catch and for sure you need a piece of luck to go away with the trophy. We are aware of that but we feel again well prepared and the atmosphere is right, the momentum is okay after the reaction in Leeds.
‘We have the chance tomorrow to win something domestically. We have been to a Carabao Cup final, we have won European trophies and the Club World Cup trophy. There are a lot of teams out there who have a worse season than our season.
‘So I would not get carried away and say we have to win it, but we will try everything and it changes a lot if you play a final or if you win a final, I can tell you. It’s a huge difference and we need to do everything to be happy with ourselves and that we leave everything out there on the pitch. This is what we did in the Carabao Cup and nothing new, we need a bit of luck to be on our side, but we will push hard for it.’
The Blues boss also confirmed that, due to Government sanctions meaning the club was unable to purchase tickets for our Academy players and their families to attend the FA Cup final at Wembley as usual, the senior squad and staff had decided to provide them with tickets instead using their own money.
‘We wanted to,’ explained Tuchel. ‘It’s a big competition and it’s one club. Normally the club would buy these tickets to provide them for the parents and the players of the Academy. So we stepped in and bought the tickets for them.’