The Blues boss faces a selection headache over which of his two goalkeepers to start this weekend
Thomas Tuchel has stressed he “cannot get sentimental” over whether Kepa Arrizabalaga or Edouard Mendy starts for Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool, admitting that the pairs form makes it an “uncomfortable and very comfortable situation” to have.
The Blues square off with the Reds on Sunday at Wembley Stadium as they look to pick up their third trophy of the season following FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup triumphs this term already.
First-choice keeper Mendy has played a smaller role in both the road to this clash and those wins, with Kepa sealing victory against Villarreal in the Super Cup penalty shootout and starting through the clubs Carabao Cup run.
“First of all I will not tell you [who will start],” Tuchel teased reporters in his pre-match press conference. “We will take the decision late, because you have a reason to ask the question. In the last competition, Kepa played in the Club World Cup semi-final and got us to the final.
“And then we took the decision for Edou coming back from the Africa Cup of Nations, and then its a pretty similar situation now. The very last decision we will take after training, like always.
“Because theres no need to take the decision now when we have one more training ahead. Kepa did fantastic in the period where we had to be without Edou, and so its an uncomfortable and very comfortable situation at the same time.”
Having initially struggled after his Stamford Bridge arrival, before being relegated to second-choice with Mendys arrival, Kepa has offered a stirring response for Chelsea this term – and Tuchel has acknowledged he is worthy of starting at Wembley, even if he does not.
“This is very easy to answer: he absolutely deserves to play and I cannot get sentimental about it,” the German added. “I have to do what in the end is in my opinion the very best solution for the team. I know that this position is a very sensitive position.
“If Kepa was a player in the other 10 positions we would not have these discussions, we would just be full of praise. But still he would absolutely deserve it and at the same time I will not be sentimental about the position.”
Tuchels selection headaches at the back are at least arguably the worst of his troubles, as he goes in search of a third trophy this term, and with the prospect of further silverware still hanging down the line.
Though several faces such as Ben Chilwell and Reece James will be out of the equation, Chelsea will be able to call upon a heavy slate of talent for their clash with Jurgen Klopps side.
Liverpool meanwhile will be without Roberto Firmino after the Brazilian was ruled out with injury – but there is hope for Diogo Jota, whose rich vein of form this term has helped thrust the Reds back into the thick of the Premier League title race.