BY PAUL LAGAN
Timo Werner will start the Champions League final tomorrow against Manchester City in Portugal despite just 12 goals from 51 appearances for Chelsea.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel has stuck with his fellow German while discarding home-grown talent Tammy Abraham and World Cup-winning hitman Oliver Giroud.
Tuchel continues to favour Werner, 25, and the former RB Leipzig striker who cost £47million last summer is not complaining. He said: “The Champions League is something special. When you hear the anthem before the game and the fans get that feeling, that’s when you really start looking forward to the game.
“It will be great to play in front of fans again because we haven’t had them there this whole time.
‘The Champions League final is the biggest game in club football. There’s nothing bigger and we’re all looking forward to it.”
There will be 6,000 Chelsea fans in the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, for many it will be the first time they have seen their favourites since before the first lockdown.
Werner is not bothered that they are facing Premier League champions City – he believes the turning point in their belief they could win the cup was the quarter-final victory over Porto.
He said: “After the Atletico Madrid game we were drawn with Porto, who were seen as the easiest draw, but they still proved to be very difficult opponents with their aggressive style of play. But after beating Porto, we all started to believe that we could go very far, regardless of who stood in our way.
“We’ve had a lot of good games but the second leg against Real Madrid was special because we showed a lot of people that we can win against the big teams. That was by some distance our best game, even if it wasn’t the most decisive.”
Chelsea’s medical department will be keeping an eye on the fitness levels of midfielder N’Golo Kante and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. Kante has a hamstring issue while Mendy inured his ribs in the final league match of the season, a humbling 2-1 defeat away to Aston Villa.
Cesar Azpilicueta is a surprise call-up for Spain ahead of next month’s Euro 2020 tournament. The Blues skipper was last in his national squad in 2018 and has 25 caps.
He was in their 2014 and 2018 World Cup squads as well as Euro 2016.
Three players from SW6 are in Joachim Low’s German squad – Timo Werner, Toni Rudiger and Kai Havertez. France have called up Kante, Giroud and Kurt Zouma.
Mason Mount, Reece James and Ben Chilwell are in Gareth Southgate’s provisional England squad, while Mateo Kovacic gets the nod for Croatia, Billy Gilmour for Scotland, Michy Batshuayi for Belgium and Andreas Christensen for Denmark.
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