For those of you that are Star Wars fans, you will undoubtedly know the famous scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader finally square off inside the Death Star years after Kenobi nearly ended Vader’s reign as a Sith Lord before it truly began. That same tense clash between master and former student is set to play out at Wembley when Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea comes to grips with Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Though not as close as it has been originally reported over the years, according to Tuchel himself in an interview last year, the pair of former 1.FSV Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund managers have followed similar paths and “speak the same footballing language” while being cut from a very similar cloth. Unlike Obi-Wan and Anakin, they may not have ever been inseparable, but their footballing destines have remained connected over the years and that has now come to a head with major honors at stake.
For the first time in the competition’s history, the FA Cup final will be contested by two German managers.
— Squawka (@Squawka) May 13, 2022
The FA Cup Final set to transpire tomorrow will already set a historic marker, with either manager lifting the trophy and becoming the first German to ever achieve that honor.
Both sides under their German tacticians are primed and ready to continue winning traditions as well, after Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy last season while Liverpool outpaced Manchester City to the Premier League title two seasons ago.
With Klopp nominated as a finalest for Manager of the Year in the Premier League, after he has guided Liverpool to a chance of surpassing Pep Guardiola’s outfit with just two matches remaining in the league, Tuchel once again will have a lot to prove if he is to be viewed as a manager on par with the two leading managerial lights in England.
As both clubs can boast talent in every position, fine margins are likely to separate one from the other come the end of 90-minutes. And in that light, here are three key tactical battles where FA Cup silverware could be won or lost.
Luis Díaz vs Reece James
In a mouth-watering battle that could truly make or break the fortunes of both Chelsea and Liverpool tomorrow in the FA Cup final, Reds frontman Luis Díaz has set the world alight at Anfield since his arrival from Portuguese giants FC Porto in the winter transfer window and is set to clash with England international Reece James; one of the best right-backs in Europe this season.
Both players possess pace to burn and a work rate that often sets the tone for team-wide performances, while the pair also are considerable attacking outlets on the same side of the pitch. Díaz has been one of the most influential players for Liverpool despite not being at the club for long, and James remains a chief influence in all phases of play for Chelsea. Whoever comes out on top of this titanic clash could have massive implications for the result overall tomorrow.
Mason Mount vs Thiago
Matches are so often won and lost in midfield. The heart of the engine room in football has produced countless legendary players and memorable performances that defined moments, years, and even eras. Whether or not Mason Mount and Thiago coming to grips in the center of the park will prove another example of a key clash with major implications remains to be seen, but what is guaranteed is both players will have a key role to play on the day.
As an academy graduate and Chelsea through and through, Mount is embarking on a career that many can only dream about and is now arguably the first name on the teamsheet for the Blues and tops both the goals and assists charts under Tuchel this season. As for Thiago, his quality has been undeniable since his Barcelona days and was equally on full display during his stint in Bavaria with Bayern Munich. He studdered in patches after coming to Liverpool but has been absolutely massive for Klopp this season on the back of many man-of-the-match performances for the Reds. Both players are capable of controlling the pulse of a match while also pulling strings that others cannot. A tasty midfield battle awaits these two.
Virgil van Dijk vs Romelu Lukaku
The Netherlands and Belgium; two nations in the lowlands that have been intertwined for centuries have also grown to become hotbeds of footballing talent for decades. Two of the biggest talents to ever emerge from those countries come into direct contact once again when Romelu Lukaku squares off against Virgil van Dijk in an epic battle between one of the best goalscorers for club and country in recent seasons against one of the top center-backs in the world.
Lukaku has not enjoyed his second stint at Chelsea in the way that many Blues fans would have hoped after he failed to settle to life under Thomas Tuchel since his arrival from Inter in the summer, but the all-time leading scorer for Belgium has hit a purple patch in front of goal of late, scoring three in his last two outings in the league and he could play a vital role for Tuchel’s men, Van Dijk dependent. The towering Dutch center-back remains a beacon of leadership, poise, and achievement under Klopp since he arrived from Southampton, and those key attributes will once again be tested as he has to clash with a potentially revitalized Lukaku supported by the influential Mason Mount. In a match where goals may not flow like running water, this is as big a duel as any other.