Liverpool FA Cup final XI vs Chelsea predicted as Keïta and Díaz in but Jota out

by 24USATVMay 14, 2022, 7 p.m. 14
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Liverpool are heading back to Wembley for the third time this season, taking on a Chelsea team who are in a similar position having been beaten by the Reds in the Carabao Cup final at the end of February.

Thomas Tuchel's side were tipped for the Premier League title by many at the start of the campaign, while they crashed out of the Champions League against Real Madrid, who Liverpool will soon face in the final in Paris.

But in this one-off game, while there is a big gap between the two sides in quality, anything can happen. Liverpool won on penalties last time the teams met in the capital, and a similarly-close encounter would be no surprise.

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These are the teams that some of our Liverpool.com writers would select with Fabinho absent and facing a race against time to be fit for the Champions League final on the last weekend of the month.

Let's start with the certainties: Alisson Becker will take his place in goal (there will be no Caoimhin Kelleher heroics this time around), Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson will be the full-backs, and Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcântara definitely play.

Let's fill in the rest of the gaps: Joël Matip deserves to play at centre-back ahead of Ibrahima Konaté (though the latter's pace does give him an argument against Timo Werner). Fabinho is out, so Jordan Henderson will play as the number six, and it's hard to look past Thiago and Naby Keïta either side of him in what looks like a nicely-balanced midfield even without the Brazilian.

Up top, Mohamed Salah will start. The other two places are pretty simple for me, too. Sadio Mané will play through the centre and Luis Díaz will be on the left. Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota will have to make do with a place among the substitutes.

One thing to watch:Sadio Mané to take centre stage at Wembley again.

Sometimes I'll throw in a wildcard shout for the sake of manufacturing some disagreement with Matt, but it's hard to look past his selections for the final. Klopp is not likely to do a Pep Guardiola and come out with a completely left-field selection for one of the most important games of the campaign.

In defence, the one major debate is definitely Matip vs Konaté. The Frenchman will have plenty of finals ahead of him, and it would be no surprise to see him feature at some stage — particularly if the game goes the distance. However, Matip has done nothing to lose his place, and the concentration and nous of the senior option should be preferred on this occasion.

Any midfield dilemmas were 'solved' by the injury to Fabinho. Klopp would rather have been faced with a selection dilemma, but he does at least have an easy task now: Henderson will play as the number six, and Thiago and Naby Keïta will feature in front of him.

Up top, even a slightly out-of-sorts Salah is still an automatic selection for the final. In any case, even with the goals having dried up, he is still contributing. Meanwhile, the goals have certainly not dried up for Mané, who has made himself undroppable through the middle. Likewise, on current form, it is hard to see how Klopp could leave Díaz out.

One thing to watch: Mohamed Salah to score on the big stage.

There will be no headaches for Jürgen Klopp in terms of match selection heading into this final. A few players would have had a case, perhaps in midfield, but with Fabinho's injury, Klopp's selection is simplified.

He will go with the strongest XI at his disposal at the back. Ibrahima Konaté and Kostas Tsimikas have made a strong case to start in recent weeks, but I expect Liverpool to go with the experience of Joël Matip and Andy Robertson instead.

The midfield picks itself without Fabinho. Jordan Henderson will slot into the holding midfield position. Meanwhile, Thiago Alcântara is a shoo-in and alongside him Naby Keïta, will have an important role to play — this time at least he will be prepared and expecting to start as well, unlike in the Carabao Cup final.

Up front, again there is little debate here. Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino will be disappointed to miss out but at the moment Liverpool's best functioning front three seems to be the one of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Luis Díaz. The fact that both Firmino and Jota are available does give Klopp the option to rotate should things go awry in the match which is a nice cushion to have.

One thing to watch: This will be the Sadio Mané cup final.

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