Thomas Tuchel is eying his maiden trophy at Chelsea as the Blues take on Leicester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday, at the iconic Wembley.
Embroiled in a tense race for the Champions League places in the Premier League, Chelsea and Leicester City brace themselves for a welcome distraction as they face each other in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Chelsea are heading into this game tagged as favourites, having won the coveted competition eight times while also enjoying a rapid improvement under Thomas Tuchel that has put them in the driver’s seat to secure Champions League football for next season.
Although the Blues have had a forgiving set of matches in their route to the FA Cup final, they most notably secured a fantastic 1-0 win over newly-crowned Premier League champions Manchester City in the semi-final.
However, it is Leicester City, who are ahead of Chelsea in the league table, and though these two teams incidentally meet again in MD37, Brendan Rodgers will be determined to win his first piece of silverware in English football.
As far as Leicester’s route to the final is concerned, they have had to navigate through the tricky challenges against Manchester United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton, whom they beat in the semi-final.
Both the sides will be boosted by the fact that there will be a significant amount of crowd attending this final, and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at these sides, ahead of their much-awaited showdown at Wembley this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
🗣"He brought us to the final, so he deserves to play the final."
Thomas Tuchel confirms Kepa Arrizabalaga will play in goal for Chelsea against Leicester in the FA Cup final pic.twitter.com/p2AEGPwkkA
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 14, 2021
Speaking ahead of the game, Thomas Tuchel has confirmed Kepa Arrizabalaga’s involvement in the cup final. The Spaniard, therefore, should once again start in goal, ahead of Edouard Mendy. There might be one change in the backline, though, with Antonio Rudiger replacing Kurt Zouma on the left hand side of the three-man defensive line that will also have Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta.
It is needless to say that Chelsea might lack pace in that defensive setup, but they will look to make up for it, with their marauding wing-backs in Reece James and Ben Chilwell. They are well-equipped to drop back into the defence and are speedy enough to recover lost ground, as they look to deal with Leicester City’s sharp counter-attacks.
In midfield, Mateo Kovacic is hoping for a return to action but is unlikely to be risked as far as the starting lineup is concerned. N’Golo Kante, meanwhile, was a major absentee in the defeat to Arsenal, although we do expect the Frenchman to return to action against his former side, as he renews his midfield partnership with Jorginho.
Chelsea’s main problem against Arsenal was the wasteful nature of attackers in front of goal. Tuchel, therefore, might be forced to make some key changes, with both Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz likely to make way for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, who is set to spearhead the Blues attack this weekend.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Ziyech, Mount; Werner
Leicester City are sweating on the fitness of Jonny Evans heading into this game. The former Manchester United centre-back has missed the last couple of matches due to a muscle injury, but he is likely return should bring the much-needed solidity and experience in the Leicester backline.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 14, 2021
Perhaps most importantly, it will allow Brendan Rodgers to revert to a more comfortable three-man defensive line that could be useful in countering Chelsea’s own setup. Evans will operate at the heart of that defence, alongside Caglar Soyuncu and Wesley Fofana.
In midfield, the Foxes have a tricky task defending the threat of the Chelsea stars who are almost flawless in possession and can make quick transitions. It could severely backfire, though, should the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans receive additional support from either the wing-backs or the centre-backs, creating a numerical superiority that could strengthen the second line of press.
Speaking of the wing-backs, Ricardo Pereira is hoping to replace the young Luke Thomas, meaning Timothy Castagne may have to switch to the left side. It will be interesting to see whether any of these two play an inverted role to add more bodies in midfield, given the fact that Tuchel does like to play through the middle.
And finally, in the attacking department, the Foxes will heavily rely on the creative prowess of James Maddison and the pace of Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho, as they look to run rings around the Chelsea backline.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Schmeichel; Fofana, Evans, Soyuncu; Pereira, Ndidi, Tielemans, Castagne; Maddison; Vardy, Iheanacho
- This will be the 140th FA Cup final, with Chelsea and Leicester City becoming the 117th different pairing in the competition’s showcase. Manchester City’s 6-0 demolition of Watford in 2019 was the last time two sides met in the final for the first time.
- This season’s FA Cup final will take place before the end of the Premier League season. The last time this happened was back in 2012/13 campaign when underdogs Wigan beat Manchester City 1-0 to lift the trophy.
- Chelsea will be appearing in their 15th FA Cup final, with only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) reaching the competition’s showcase on more occasions. Indeed, only the Gunners (14) and the Red Devils (12) have won the trophy on more occasions than Chelsea (8).
- This will be Leicester City’s fifth appearance in an FA Cup final and the first since 1969. The Foxes have lost all four previous finals, the most appearances a side has made in the competition’s showcase without ever winning the trophy.
- Chelsea have reached the FA Cup final in four of the last five seasons (W1 L2), with the Blues finishing runners up in last season’s competition to Arsenal. The last side to lose the FA Cup final in consecutive seasons was Newcastle United in 1998 and 1999.
Player to Watch
As mentioned earlier, Chelsea were culpable for missing a host of attacking chances in the last game against Arsenal. They cannot afford to make the same mistakes against a Leicester City side who can be lethal in front of goal and might not allow the opposition so many opportunities. And that is where Timo Werner could come into the fray.
After a largely disappointing Premier League campaign so far, the former RB Leipzig star has a point to prove, having scored just six times in 33 league games. However, the German has been involved in three goals in his last three league matches, showcasing decent work ethic and industry that could be useful against Leicester City this weekend.
Chelsea 1-0 Leicester City
This game has the makings of a cagey affair and most likely an uneventful one, as both sides know how to remain solid defensively – boasting a certain discipline about their game. A lot could depend on how well the teams manage to convert their scoring opportunities that may come at a premium.
Chelsea, though, do have the upper hand, due to the fact that they have more experienced players in their ranks as well as a more potent creative unit that might just do enough to seal a narrow victory over the Foxes this weekend.