The next game is always the most important game, as Thomas Tuchel likes to say, and that’s certainly the case now as we head into tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley.
Unfortunately, we have two big injury situations to sweat over, with N’Golo Kanté trying to come back after missing the past few matches and Mateo Kovačić trying to get his ankle to hold together simply by sheer force of will.
Risking either or both would be a big call, but if there was a game left this season to risk such things, it’s this one. Thomas Tuchel didn’t shy away from that suggestion in his pre-match press conference today, as he reflected on the fitness of our two most important midfielders.
“It is the moment to take a risk, yeah.”
“It’s pretty surprising to be in the situation where we can try, and Mateo wants to try it — and the medical department gave the green light to try it. The ‘advantage’ is the ligament is torn already from the last incident, so there is no new injury, just heavy pain. His ankle was heavily swollen. We are hoping that maybe time is enough for him to make it. We will try in two-and-a-half hours in training, and we will know more about it. [We] will try everything and see tomorrow.”
“[Kanté] is also trying. He tried yesterday in team training and did, more or less, everything. Hopefully, there hasn’t been a reaction. It was a reduced training session because of quite a long travel [after Leeds] and fatigue of travelling. It was not a high-intensity training session. We will try today with him. He is keen to make it. Hopefully, he makes it to training 100% so we can plan with him tomorrow, it would be good for us.”
That all sounds quite risky indeed, but David Luiz once played and won a Champions League final on one leg, so you never know I suppose. Once that adrenaline (not to mention the painkillers) kick in...
And we certainly will need every possible advantage in what is likely to be another game against Liverpool decided by the smallest of margins, be they luck, bounces, penalties, moon phases, butterfly wings.
“In these finals, there is a special energy, a special atmosphere. There is a special momentum you have to catch, and for sure, you need a piece of luck to go away with a trophy. We are aware of that. We feel again well prepared. The atmosphere is right. The momentum is okay after the reaction in Leeds.
“Everybody knows what we are up to. We want to arrive to give Liverpool a hard fight. [We] always need our very highest level to compete, but we found it in the [previous] matches [against them]. I don’t expect crazy new things from them and also from us. The game is on tomorrow. A big final, big competition. We want to be spot on.
“[You] have to be spot-on in these kinds of matches. They have been such close matches lately. Decisions, sometimes red cards, a mistake here, we came back at Stamford Bridge, they came back at Anfield with a penalty, and we had to dig in with ten men. A lot of stories.
“[It] will be down to margins. It will be down to details within the match. We are facing one of the very best coaches and teams in the world right now. It is obvious and proven over the last years and recent weeks. We are up for the fight.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Clear eyes, full hearts.