Chelsea against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final promises to be a spectacle. If recent history is anything to go by, games between these 2 teams see plenty of goals and plenty of drama.
Liverpool are coming into this game in red hot form having annihilated Leeds mid-week but may have a few injury concerns of their own, importantly those of Firmino and Jota. Still, Mane has shown intelligent play as a striker and Luis Diaz has slotted in on the left wing seamlessly, thus the Reds would consider themselves favorites going into this game.
Chelsea haven’t quite been the same team since they lost their wing-backs to injury and have been grinding out results in recent games. They’re coming in off a professional showing against Lille in the Champions League and have shown themselves to be an excellent cup side under Thomas Tuchel, still to be knocked out of any cup competition as Chelsea manager before the final.
To beat a Liverpool side in red hot form, Chelsea will need to defend resolutely in numbers, manage to progress the ball despite a likely 2 v 3 player disadvantage in the middle of the park and then show good fluidity in attack. Rudiger’s role in protecting likely left-back starter Marcos Alonso against the onslaught from Mo Salah will be a key battle in how the game pans out.
With that in mind, this is how I would want Chelsea to line up against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday:
GK: Edouard Mendy
Kepa has been stellar whenever called upon this season and huge credit to him for that but in a cup final with silverware on the line, I’d want to have our best Goalkeeper in goal and that’s Mendy.
RWB: Cesar Azpilicueta
As much as the presence of Reece James positively impacts the team in defense, transition and in attack, I think it would be a big risk to play him from the start immediately upon his return from a long layoff. Defensively solid, Azpilicueta to start the game and hopefully we get a chance to see James come off the bench at some point and make a difference to the game.
CBs: Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger
No reason to change up any of Chelsea’s 3 best center backs. They’ve been solid and as previously mentioned, Rudiger’s performance as a left center backup could be crucially important in the outcome of the game.
LWB: Marcos Alonso
It’s a pity that Chelsea didn’t bring in suitable cover for Chilwell when his season-long layoff was confirmed. So between playing Malang Sarr, a makeshift winger at wing-back, and Marcos Alonso, I’d opt for the Spaniard.
His height is an asset when defending set-pieces, a strong weapon for Liverpool and his crossing remains a useful asset as demonstrated against Crystal Palace at the weekend. He’s not the best defensively and will need back up to avoid being isolated one-v-one against Salah.
CMs: Matteo Kovacic and N’golo Kante
At full fitness, Chelsea have 3 quality central midfielders to pick from but picking these 2 and leaving out Jorignho at the start, is how I hope we lineup. Likely isolated 3 v 2 against Liverpool’s central midfield, the dribbling and ball progression from Kovacic could prove a useful asset in bringing the ball into the front 3. Kante is Kante. He plays.
RW: Hakim Ziyech
Chelsea’s best performer in recent times. Ziyech may not have the pace to be a counter-attacking threat quite like Christian Pulisic or Hudson-Odoi but he’s a big-game player with a wand of a left foot that can turn or win a game on a dime. His risky style of football comes with its caveat of ball losses but it’s a risk-reward worth taking for this cup final.
LW: Mason Mount
A fit Mason Mount will be a huge asset to Chelsea in this game. Mount has the quality on the ball to make things happen, an eye for goal, as well as a tireless work rate allowing him to join the central midfielders deeper, to help escape their man disadvantage and link the ball to the attack. His personality and mentality are valuable in a cup final. He must start.
CF: Kai Havertz
Depending on where you land on the Lukaku struggle, this may or may not be a surprise but I think is comfortably the sensible pick here.
Romelu Lukaku is a quality striker and I remain confident that he’ll come good with this Chelsea side but at the moment, the fluidity of the attack and balance to the side with Havertz as the center forward are significantly greater than with Lukaku. He’s scored a lot of big goals for Chelsea and he’d be my pick here.