James starts, Lukaku benched: The Chelsea starting XI Thomas Tuchel must consider for Liverpool

The Chelsea starting XI Thomas Tuchel must consider for Liverpool

On Sunday afternoon Chelsea enter their third final of the season.

Liverpool await at Wembley as the Blues attempt to claim the Carabao Cup trophy to add to their collection for the first time since since beating Tottenham in 2015.

Chelsea welcome back a number of stars for the clash with Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech proving to be fit to train despite being forced off against Lille in the Champions League.

Reece James has returned this week and Thomas Tuchel has said the 22-year-old defender could start depending how he performs in a third training session ahead of the final, while Ben Chilwell is the only player unavailable for selection.

football.london’ s reporters take this news and name the side they would pick for the Carabao Cup final to beat Liverpool.

Adam Newson

With all barring Ben Chilwell seemingly fit for the Carabao Cup final, there are several big decisions to be made across the Chelsea side. None more so than who begins in goal.

Edouard Mendy is the Blues’ No.1 stopper and is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. And yet, for the sake of team harmony, I think I would start Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has played in every previous round.

It has to be a back three for me and I would go with Trevoh Chalobah, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger. At right wing-back, I’d throw in Reece James. Sure, it’s a huge gamble with the academy graduate having only trained three times since tearing his hamstring in December but he is worth taking a risk on.

On the opposite flank, I’d go Cesar Azpilicueta and the Spaniard could help limit the threat of Mohamed Salah when the Liverpool star cuts inside onto his favoured left foot.

N’Golo Kante is a must in central midfield and I think I’d partner him with Jorginho, who will be fresh having not featured against Lille. Mateo Kovacic, fitness permitting, would be introduced in the second period.

Kai Havertz has to lead the Chelsea attack given his performance in midweek and I’d flank the German with Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount. It’s tough to leave Hakim Ziyech out of the right but the defensive instincts of Mount put him ahead of the 28-year-old in my eyes.

Adam’s starting XIKepa; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Azpilicueta, Mount, Havertz, Pulisic.

Scott Trotter

This is a game where Thomas Tuchel has at least five dilemmas in picking his starting XI.

First up, Kepa vs Mendy. The latter is undoubtedly the club’s first choice, but the Spaniard has featured in each round of the cup so far and produced some heroics on the journey to the final. I was happy for Mendy to start against Palmeiras but Kepa is an easy decision here.

Next is the question whether to start James. The Blues were without him when Liverpool visited Stamford Bridge and certainly had their work cut out against Salah and Sadio Mane, but unless he’s truly up to speed he shouldn’t be risked. Three team training sessions just isn’t much time.

The difficulty then lies in midfield with Chelsea’s three stars Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic. The mobility that Kante and Kovacic showed in the Stamford Bridge clash in January should earn them the start.

The next issues lie up front. Starting Romelu Lukaku seems unlikely after Havertz’s display against Lille, but Tuchel will still have pick three players from Mount, Ziyech and Pulisic.


The American winger had success against the Reds in their last fixture and also showed his ability against a team willing to attack with a goal in the Champions League.

Leaving Ziyech on the bench is a tough decision given he has been the Blues form player in 2022, but it’s difficult to leave Mount out when he is fit.

Scott’s starting XI: Kepa, Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Havertz, Pulisic.

Scott Clayton

Tuchel has a few tough decisions to make for this one. The first one is who does he pick as the goalkeeper. Kepa has done enough to warrant a start, but last season’s FA Cup final is still in my mind, and I hate losing finals, so I want to pick our best players even if I do think Kepa deserves to play for getting us to the final.

The next decision was Chalobah or Christensen. I’d have picked Chalobah personally if he had played more after recovering from his injury.

I contradict myself now by selecting James at right wing-back after being out since December, but I fear Mane and Salah, and I don’t feel comfortable going into a final with either Marcos Alonso or Malang Sarr. Both have done well at times this season, but I’d rather have a solid defender in Azpilicueta out on the left than worrying about the other two.

Jorginho misses out due to Kovacic and Kante’s performance against Liverpool in the 2-2 draw. I love to have that energy, especially against Liverpool, but I’d understand if Jorginho is selected ahead of Kovacic.

I pick Ziyech due to form, but Pulisic’s ability to score will be my choice if he’s not fit enough to start. Mount comes right back into the side as I feel he’s essential to what Tuchel wants.

If you asked me last week, I’d have probably picked Lukaku to start up top, but the way we close down and play with Havertz leading the line makes me pick him ahead of Lukaku. I do think that welcome rest for Lukaku’s last match will make him hungry to prove himself, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets the nod with Mount and Havertz behind.

I also think the drama surrounding the match if Lukaku starts and we lose will be another huge setback that I think Tuchel will play it safe for his mental health.

Scott’s starting XI: Mendy, Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Azpilicueta, Ziyech, Mount, Havertz

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