LONDON: Liverpool will bid to keep their quadruple chase alive in Saturday’s FA Cup final against a Chelsea side hoping to welcome incoming owner Todd Boehly with victory at Wembley.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have four matches left in their historic attempt to become the first English team to win all four major trophies in one season.
They beat Chelsea to lift the League Cup in February and have reached the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League, where they face Real Madrid on May 28.
No English club has come this close to such an incredible clean sweep, but Liverpool know their hopes of winning the Premier League are starting to fade.
Manchester City moved three points clear of the second-placed Reds with a 5-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday and need four points from their last two games against West Ham United and Aston Villa to retain the crown.
If a second English title in three seasons proves beyond Liverpool despite their blistering form in the second half of the season, then winning two more cup competitions would be a memorable consolation.
First up is a rematch with Chelsea, who fought gamely in an intense League Cup final in February before Liverpool prevailed 11-10 in the shoot-out that followed a 0-0 draw.
Liverpool and Chelsea are the first English teams to meet in both domestic finals in the same year since Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.
Klopp’s side will hope they emulate Arsenal, who did the cup double against Wednesday that season.
But, in their 60th game this season, fatigue could be a threat to Liverpool’s hopes of a first FA Cup triumph since 2006.
In a bid to keep his stars fresh, Klopp made several changes in Tuesday’s win at Villa, yet still lost Brazil midfielder Fabinho to an injury that rules him out of the final.
Liverpool, seven-times FA Cup winners, have not lifted the trophy since 2006 and it is the first time they have advanced to the final under Klopp, who took over at Anfield in 2015.
“It’s our first FA Cup final and we are really, really desperate to win it, but we know our opponents are as well,” Klopp told a news conference on Friday. “When you go for three or four trophies, it’s clear you get it or you don’t. It’s a busy season, but it will never happen that the FA Cup is just a normal game.
“It’s a special game and, for some, the biggest in their career. We want to enjoy it and deliver for our people. We are really looking forward to this opportunity. It’s now a massive final for us and I’m really happy we are part of it.”
Like Liverpool, Chelsea’s season will conclude with 63 games played, but it has been Thomas Tuchel’s side who have looked more drained in recent weeks.
Before Wednesday’s 3-0 victory at Leeds consolidated their grip on third place, the Blues had won just once in five league games as they struggled to recover from their painful Champions League quarter-final exit at Real Madrid.
Uncertainty over the future of the both the club and several key players has also been a factor since Roman Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale just before he was sanctioned by the government after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With LA Dodgers co-owner Boehly and his consortium agreeing a 4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) takeover last weekend, subject to approval from the Premier League, Chelsea can finally plan for next season.
Before that, Tuchel has the chance to end the Abramovich era with one last prize, in the process winning his first English domestic trophy after leading Chelsea to Champions League and Club World Cup glory over the last year.
Tuchel, whose team are third in the league, said Chelsea want to give a “hard fight” to Liverpool, who remain on track for a haul of four trophies this season.
“You have to be spot on in these matches, they are such close matches lately... it will be down to margins and details,” Tuchel told reporters on Friday. “We are facing one of the very best coaches and teams in the world. We are up for the fight.”
Tuchel said he hoped Mateo Kovacic can play through the pain barrier as the Chelsea midfielder battles to recover from an ankle injury sustained during the win against Leeds.
“We will try it [training] today. Mateo wants to try it,” Tuchel said. “The medical department gave the green light to try it. We’re hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it.”
Tuchel will also try to push N’Golo Kante to play against Liverpool. The France midfielder has struggled with a series of injury niggles in recent weeks.
“We will try for N’Golo,” Tuchel said. “It is the time now to take calculated risk, with it being the cup final.”
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2022