Final challenge as Chelsea face Liverpool for first piece of major domestic silverware


Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has a defensive selection headache as Chelsea prepare to face Liverpool in the EFL Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Should he risk highly-experienced but veteran central defender Thiago Silva or should he stick with the central defensive pairing of Axel Disasi and Silva’s replacement Levi Colwill, who did so well on Saturday against Manchester City in the 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium?

Silva, 39, sustained a slight hamstring injury in the 3-1 win at Crystal Palace that kept him out of the trip to Manchester but it’s understood he has recovered and is able to start. Pochettino might use the injury as an excuse to dump Silva on to the bench.

It’s far from accurate to say that the Blues have hit a rich vein of form but they are starting to show the basics of a good side – desire.

That was evident from the first whistle against Pep Guardiola’s side.

And they are going to need that in bucket loads as they take on the Premier League leaders for the first piece of silverware up for grabs this season.

Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, who has recovered from a knee injury, was left out of the squad at the weekend for, according to Pochettino, ‘personal reasons’.

Pochettino said: “We had hoped to include Robert in the squad on Saturday but  it emerged that he had a personal problem which meant he could not be there.

“It’s not a big issue but it’s important for him to be at home .”

Whether he has overcome that setback is to be seen, but it’s highly unlikely that he will dispose his replacement Djordje Petrovic who has not put a finger, glove or even boot wrong since stepping in for the Spain stopper.

With skipper Reece James still sidelined and unlikely to see much action before the tail end of the season at best, Malo Gusto will take up the reins at right-back at Wembley, with stand-in skipper Ben Chilwell back to his best on the left.

Most of the rest of the side picks itself, with just the option of Noni Madueke taking the place of Raheem Sterling.
It would be a bold move by the head coach and one you expect he will ultimately baulk at.

Enzo Fernandez, Conor Gallagher, Moises Caicedo and Cole Palmer will take up positions between defence and attack, leaving Nicolas Jackson to spearhead the attacks.

The return of Trevoh Chalobah to the squad after a long-term hamstring injury gave a welcome boost to Pochettino in terms of his defensive options and he looks set to be warming the bench.

The Sierra Leone-born youth product, brought up in Gipsy Hill, will be put up for sale in the summer as the new owners seek to continue with their policy of selling off academy products for as much as possible to ease any potential financial issues.

Had he not had the injury, it’s more than likely he would have been offloaded in the January transfer window with Bayern Munich long-time admirers of the versatile defender.

His recovery came too late for the now seemingly beleaguered Bundesliga side to contemplate coughing up the £40million Chelsea will be looking to secure.


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