And yet as an ancient Blues defence, condemned for demolition this summer, comes up against the hottest front three of the Premier League era, Thomas Tuchel’s team can complete an unwanted historic feat today.
Thomas Tuchel will hope to avoid Chelsea becoming the first team ever to lose three FA Cup finals in a row[/caption]
Jurgen Klopp has already beaten Tuchel to the Carabao Cup crown, in February[/caption]
Because no club has ever lost three successive FA Cup finals – not in 150 years of the world’s oldest knock-out competition.
Not even back in the 19th century when the public schoolboys of the Wanderers and the Old Etonians used to face off against the Royal Engineers.
Chelsea went into the last two finals as favourites – when they lost to Arsenal, behind closed doors in 2020, and then to Leicester in front of just 20,000 fans as football emerged from the pandemic.
Today, the world champions are clear underdogs against a Liverpool side still competing for an unprecedented Quadruple.
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In Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, the Reds are the first team ever to boast a front three who have each scored 15 Premier League goals in a season.
That’s without even mentioning the Kop’s new sensation, Luis Diaz – and Roberto Firmino, of course.
For Chelsea’s defence this showpiece represents a last hurrah.
Antonio Rudiger is off to Real Madrid, Andreas Christensen is heading to Barcelona – and possibly captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso too – while time is catching up with 37-year-old Thiago Silva.
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Can Chelsea succeed where they failed in the Carabao Cup final in February – a breathless, if goalless draw, followed by a marathon penalty shoot-out which saw Blues keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga miss the decisive spot-kick?
Tuchel’s men may be mentally, if not physically, fresher for this one than the Reds.
The FA Cup has been their only shot at silverware in this turbulent campaign for some weeks now.
Elite clubs have often had a sniffy attitude towards the cup in recent seasons but today’s final truly matters to both sides.
These clubs share a mutual loathing, dating back to the Jose Mourinho-Rafa Benitez era, and for those inside the first FA Cup final full house in three years, this trophy is no mere afterthought or consolation prize.
Liverpool have never lifted the FA Cup at the new Wembley. It is 16 years since they last won the competition, in a thriller against West Ham in Cardiff.
That is the longest the Reds have gone without winning the trophy since they first triumphed under Bill Shankly in 1965.
The Reds have won the cup seven times in all. Chelsea, with “no history”, have eight.
So Wembley hasn’t truly been “Anfield South” for decades now and the invading Scousers want to reclaim their turf.
Jurgen Klopp, for all his triumphs, was heavily criticised by Liverpool supporters for not taking the domestic cups seriously enough – until this season, when the Kop boss has turned that underwhelming record on its head.
Chelsea will face a tough challenge slowing down Liverpool’s rampant front three[/caption]
So this is a chance, not just to win another leg of the Quadruple but to right one of his few wrongs.
For Chelsea, the exit of Roman Abramovich has engulfed their season in sanctions and uncertainty.
Can the Todd Boehly era possibly be anything like as trophy-laden as the reign of his Russian predecessor – especially with Liverpool and Manchester City so dominant and Newcastle so wealthy?
And will Romelu Lukaku, the misfiring £97.5million striker, be part of that Boehly era?
The Belgian has staked a late claim to start today’s final with three goals in his last two games.
But those were his first Premier League strikes of 2022, so the smart money is on Lukaku being named among the subs.
This has been a vintage year for the cup – with outstanding runs from non-league Boreham Wood and Kidderminster Harriers, Nottingham Forest’s heroics in defeating Leicester and Arsenal, as well as Cambridge United’s toppling of the richest club on Earth, Newcastle.
It is a shame the cup final is not afforded its own weekend as the climax of the domestic season this year.
But the occasion still has its pomp and ceremony – brass bands, Abide With Me, flowers in lapels, ribbons on silverware and beers on Wembley Way.
And history is always written on these days.
The first German player to win the FA Cup was Manchester City keeper and former prisoner-of-war Bert Trautmann, who broke his neck in the 1956 final.
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Today, we will see the first German manager ever to lift the cup.
Tuchel and Klopp will not want to go to Trautmann’s extremes – but this one matters all the same.