Mendy set for Club World Cup final start as Tuchel not set to keep the faith with Kepa


Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel will dump Kepa Arrizabalaga from his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Club World Cup final.

Edouard Mendy, who won the African Cup of Nations with Senegal on Sunday, joined up with the squad in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and watched the west Londoners sneak a 1-0 win over Al Hilal in the semi-final.

They play Brazilian outfit Palmeiras in the final.

Tuchel, who has been recovering from Covid in London, could still make it to the stadium for the game. He is set to restore his number one goalkeeper between the sticks and the unfortunate Spain international, who made several top saves against the Middle Eastern side on Wednesday, will return to the bench.

Chelsea won thanks to a tap-in from out-of-form striker Romelu Lukaku in the first half.

Assistant coach Zsolt Low, in charge in the absence of Tuchel, suggested the Blues were restrained in their play.

He said: “We worked hard. We missed a little bit of freedom and rhythm.

“We started a little nervous, everything we did was not easy.

“This competition is very important for the club. Chelsea have never won this competition. That’s why the players felt the pressure.”

Of their opponent, Low knows the Blues will have to be their very best.

He said: “Palmeiras are a very, very big team with a good European coach. We expect a very hard game in the final with a lot of spectators from Brazil. It will feel like an away game. That makes things more difficult but we’re ready to play the final. We’re here to win it.

“We will watch the video and analyse their games. We will be well prepared.”

Tuchel will continue with his £97million striker Lukaku, who laboured for much of the game.

But also had very little support. Low said: “Everyone’s very happy Romelu scored.

“He fought very hard and tried hard in the last game. He did everything. That’s why we give him the chance all the time.

“We hoped for a bit of luck to score today.

“He’s very happy, we’re very happy and hope he continues and scores again in the final.”

Chelsea’s women’s side could go top of the WSL tonight if they beat leaders Arsenal at Kingsmeadow.

Fresh from the 1-0 victory over Manchester City at the weekend, head coach Emma Hayes won’t have to pump up her charges for this top of the table clash.

Arsenal are two points ahead of Chelsea but have played one game more.

Dutch centre-back Aniek Nouwen has taken full advantage of the prolonged absence of skipper Magda Eriksson to form a strong partnership with Millie Bright.

The 22-year-old knows how important the victory over City was. She said: “It was a relief.

Everyone fought so hard throughout the game so it was just big happy faces from everyone at the end.

“It was a really important win. Tonight we have a big game again and if we win we’re back on top so that’s where we want to be.

“I’m really looking forward to the Arsenal game, very much so.”

Chelsea crashed out of the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday with a humbling 5-1 defeat to Belgian outfit Genk.

The game was a play-off decider for a spot in the last 16 of the main draw.

Lewis Hall scored the Blues’ goal from the penalty spot.

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