It’s Thomas Tuchel’s most important team selection since, well, this time last year as Chelsea take on Manchester City in the Champions League final in Porto.
It’s a second final in a row for the Chelsea head coach, having reached the showpiece game with PSG last season but losing out in the final to Bayern Munich.
Now, with a new team and a new group of players, Tuchel has repeated the trick, having had much less time to do it as well having only been appointed by the club in late January.
Frank Lampard had got the Blues through the group stages of the campaign but Tuchel has been the man to steer Chelsea through the knockout stages.
Chelsea have lost just once in this season’s competition, that came at the hands of Porto in Seville in the quarter finals thanks to Mehdi Taremi’s 92nd minute wondergoal.
Tuchel has been boosted by the return to training of both Edouard Mendy and N’Golo Kante to training at Cobham on Wednesday. The duo were injury doubts heading into the final with Kante having missed the loss at Aston Villa and Mendy being subbed off at half time of the 2-1 defeat at Villa Park.
But both are making good progress in their recovery and there is big optimism that the key duo can play against City in the biggest club game of them all.
So, if we were in Thomas Tuchel’s shoes then how would we line our Blues side up? We asked our reporters Sam Inkersole and Adam Newson to have their say.
Put simply, if Mendy and Kante are both fit then they both have to play in a game of this magnitude. We have seen Kante play through the pain, perhaps unwisely, in the Europa League final of 2019 but if anyone can defy any sort of logic, it is Chelsea’s truly world class player.
Likewise Mendy, who has been superb since Tuchel arrived at the club. The manager has faith in Kepa Arrizabalaga should the Spaniard be called upon but Mendy is the clear number one and Tuchel has already said if he passes a fitness test, Mendy will start.
The defence almost picks itself for this one. While Reece James has played as a right centre back for the last three games, he should be moved back to wing back and Cesar Azpilicueta back into a third centre back role alongside Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger, with Ben Chilwell on the left.
Jorginho should partner Kante in midfield, which could mean a fourth Champions League final without starting for Mateo Kovacic, who was a substitute for two and missed another through injury when at Real Madrid.
As usual, there are question marks in the final third outside of Mason Mount, who will start if he’s fit. I’d go with Timo Werner and also, maybe a surprise to some, Hakim Ziyech.
The Morocaan has turned up in big games since Tuchel came in and the head coach has shown an inkling to start Ziyech for those big moments.
Sam’s team: Mendy; James, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, Chilwell; Jorginho, Kante; Mount, Ziyech, Werner.
For the biggest Chelsea game in nine years, Thomas Tuchel must go with the tried and trusted. They’ve got the Blues to this point, after all.
That means Edouard Mendy starts if he’s fit – and every indication is the Senegal international will be ready to take on Pep Guardiola’s side.
The back three should consist of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger. Andreas Christensen is deserving of a final spot but he hasn’t played since May 8 after suffering a hamstring injury during the Blues victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Reece James was excellent, particularly in the second half, of that league meeting and so must be deployed at right wing-back after three impressive outings on the right of the back three. On the opposite flank should be Ben Chilwell, whose greater athleticism nudges him ahead of Marcos Alonso.
N’Golo Kante has to play, even if he’s not 100%. He’s that important to Chelsea’s chances in Porto. The Frenchman should be paired with Jorginho in midfield as that duo helped Tuchel’s side ease beyond Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
Mason Mount may have looked a little tired in recent games but he’s had a full week to recover and prepare. His energy will be vital in unlocking City’s backline. As will Timo Werner, who is guaranteed to start and his threat behind Guardiola’s defence will be important.
Who occupies the other attacking role is a point of debate. Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham are all candidates. Yet I think this is a game for the mobility and intelligence of Kai Havertz.
Adam’s team (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Havertz, Werner
Source by Football London