There are two weeks, four games, and in effect, four finals left of this most strange 2020-21 season for Chelsea, and two of those four are coming up in the next four days, against the same team, Leicester City.
First is the literal final of the FA Cup, which is normally held after the last round of league matches, but this time it’s held with two games still to go. Incidentally, one of the times it was scheduled similarly was in 2011-12, when we faced Liverpool in the final, then played Liverpool in the league three days later in the penultimate match of the league season — then played a Champions League final 11 days after that.
Unlike in 2012, we’re still in the hunt for a top-four spot as well, which makes both of the games coming up against Leicester massive must-wins: finals. Fortunately, the squad is almost fully fit, with Andreas Christensen the only absentee. Mateo Kovačić is available after nearly a monthlong absence thanks to a hamstring injury while N’Golo Kanté’s Achilles pain is being managed.
“The whole group is available, Kova is with us again. [That’s] huge because Mateo has everything we need in the midfield: experience, power, acceleration, deceleration, can beat players, has the physical ability, and has played big games.
“When we missed N’Golo and Mateo in the same match, we lacked a lot of quality, energy, and experience. Billy [Gilmour] did a huge job in both games but it’s not fair to compare him to these players because they have more experience and they are a step ahead in their development. It’s what we need in the key moments of the season.”
“[Re Kanté] we took the decision together, me and N’Golo and the medical to leave him out and give him the Arsenal match to rest and have a treatment to the right Achilles. It was pain management, it is not a huge injury. It is nothing you need to be afraid of it getting big. It was just there and a bit annoying. [...] He did all the training sessions yesterday, today no complaints. He will start tomorrow and very likely finish the game for us.”
The loss against Arsenal on Wednesday was not exactly ideal preparation for the game — wake-up call or no wake-up call — and it’s made these upcoming games even trickier to navigate.
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“These are two finals. We don’t think about anything other than the two finals. There’s the final for the cup and the final for the top four. We missed the chance against Arsenal to be decisive, to have the decisive advantage [in the Premier League], so now we have to cope with it and, first of all, show the reaction at Wembley to have the upper hand on Tuesday. This is what we are up for.”
“[We] play our two finals against the same team and it will be very, very tough, complicated, and difficult. [...] So it’s the moment to step up and enjoy on the highest level. By enjoying we mean hard work, suffering, and helping each other out on the pitch. This is what we will do tomorrow and Tuesday.”
Chelsea have done very well in “big” games under Tuchel. It doesn’t get much bigger than an FA Cup final.
“[We] want to show a reaction and have to show a reaction. This is it. It is a big match. It is at Wembley in an FA Cup final. It is my first final here in England and it is huge. I will get carried away with emotions tomorrow. We focus to prepare my team better than we did two days ago.”
“It is different to be in a final. It’s the best thing to have in high-level sport, it brings out the best of you and we want to cope with it. It’s a big gift and hopefully, we can show our best performance.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Clear eyes. Full hearts.