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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan

Tuchel on the FA Cup final: It's the time to take risks

By Paul Lagan

Chelsea men and women are playing FA Cup finals at Wembley this weekend and, for the men, Thomas Tuchel will be sweating on the fitness of Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic as they take on Liverpool tomorrow.

Emma Hayes, however, has an almost clean bill of health as her league champions take on in-form Manchester City on Sunday. Only Fran Kirby is missing through illness.

Tuchel will almost certainly try to play the league side that drew 1-1 at Anfield in August, with the exception of Thiago Silva, in for Andreas Christensen.

It was arguably one of Chelsea’s most impressive away displays of the season. They could, and should, have beaten the home side.

They had to contend with the loss of Reece James just before half-time when he was red-carded for a handball in his penalty area, which led to Liverpool’s spot-kick equaliser after Kai Havertz’s mid-half opener.

Tuchel saw Kovacic limp off the Elland Road pitch on Wednesday night in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Leeds United.

The challenge by Dan James – red-carded by referee Anthony Taylor – was reckless and battered Kovacic’s left leg.

The German head coach is hoping for a miracle.

He said today: "We will try it today actually and see tomorrow, which is pretty surprising news that we are even in this situation, but Mateo wants to try it.

"The medical department gave us the green light to try it. The advantage is that the ligament is already torn from the last incident so there is no new injury but heavy pain and it’s heavily swollen so we’re hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it.

"He’s a top team player so he knows what it takes to put the ego aside and serve the team. He’s a fantastic guy and a fantastic player who we missed too much this season."

The other major doubt is whether N’Golo Kante can be fit to make an appearance on the Wembley turf.

The French midfielder has missed the last three matches and is crucial to Tuchel’s midfield.

Tuchel said: "He’s also trying and tried yesterday in team training and did more or less everything, hopefully now without a reaction.

"It was a reduced training session because of the travel and fatigue so it was not a high-intensity training session but we will also try today with him. "He is keen to make it and hopefully he makes it to training 100 per cent. It will be crucial for us and it’s the moment to take risks."

Mendy, Toni Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, James, Romelu Lukaku, Mason Mount, and Havertz could well start.

Hayes will hope Football Writers’ Player of the Year Sam Kerr can reproduce her sublime form to retain the FA Cup.

Australian Kerr almost single-handedly turned disaster into triumph with two incredible ‘worldie’ goals in Sunday’s 4-2 must-win Women’s Super League match against Manchester United.

That victory secured the Blues’ third title in a row.

Kerr’s first was the second equaliser as the Blues went 2-1 down. It was a stunning left-footed strike from the edge of the United penalty area.

But the second, which capped off the win, was in a different class. Facing away from goal, and 30 yards out, she chested the ball before swivelling and unleashing an immaculate dipping volley that stunned United goalkeeper Mary Earps, both sets of players and the near 4,000 crowd at Kingsmeadow.

Kerr said afterwards, she knew she was going to score a spectacular goal.

She said: “On my second goal, it sounds crazy but I try that type of stuff at training all the time.

“One of my strengths as a player is I try things that maybe other players wouldn’t try.

“When Guro [Reiten] headed it to me I thought this is going to pop up perfectly for a volley and I just thought I’m going to hit it.

“I do visualise a lot.

“Everyone thinks I was surprised I scored that goal but I told Erin Cuthbert I’m going to score a worldie. I’m going to chest it down and volley the ball.”


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