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Football Daily | Chelsea, Liverpool and the bus of history: destination Wembley

ALL ABOARD

When a team featuring Diego Moreira, Robert Sánchez, Marc Cucurella, Ian Maatsen, Bashir Humphreys, Lesley Ugochukwu and Mason Burstow went a goal behind to AFC Wimbledon after 18 minutes of their Milk Cup second-round match back in August, the Chelsea fans present would have thought anyone suggesting the players in question would be contesting this Sunday’s final at Wembley was stone-hatchet mad. They’d have been dead right too, seeing as Moreira is currently on loan at Lyon, Sánchez and Cucurella have been knacked since December, Maatsen is now playing for Dortmund, Humphreys for Swansea, Ugochukwu hasn’t had a look-in since Christmas Eve and Burstow is currently trying to make sense of it all under his fourth different manager in seven months having been shipped up on loan to Sunderland in September.

Nevertheless, despite all this upheaval, Chelsea subsequently somehow saw off the challenges of Brighton, Blackburn, Newcastle and Middlesbrough to qualify for Wembley and now only knack-ravaged Liverpool stand in their way of a record sixth consecutive defeat in a domestic final at Wembley. Not that Mauricio Pochettino is concerned, as the previous five were lost under the watch of other managers and have been consigned to – if not the dustbin – the bus of history. “A final starts and finishes but that’s it,” he cooed. “You store it on the bus. Never has a reference to this final will translate to his final. It’s history. Of course people pay attention. But us, when we are preparing are not thinking about what happened one year ago, two years ago and three years ago.”

While Pochettino didn’t say whether or not he is thinking about what happened three weeks ago, he would do well to remember that it was around then Liverpool thrashed his side 4-1 at Anfield in a match where only Darwin Núñez’s almost supernatural fixation with hitting the woodwork prevented Jürgen Klopp’s side from doubling their tally. On the evidence of that performance you’d give Chelsea no chance of beating Liverpool on Sunday, but since then Liverpool have lost several key players. Of the team that started that day, Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota have all been ruled out with knack, while Núñez is also a major doubt. Mo Salah, who didn’t play in that particular rout, could also miss out on Sunday, in a state of affairs that has led Klopp to label Chelsea the clear favourites.

Pochettino, needless to say, was having none of it. “Of course, I think Liverpool are favourites,” he roared in his pre-match media session. “In the last few years, they have experience of competing as a team and being in finals. Our players are not only new to this competition, Premier League and [Carling] Cup, but for some, this is their first final. In my opinion, I make them favourites.” As fascinating and fiendishly clever as these mind-games are, the bookies disagree, although it’s not a market Football Daily will be getting involved in with any kind of confidence. Given that the last two finals between these sides ended scoreless after extra time before penalties, a tedious bore draw seems the most likely outcome. All we’re hoping for is a good game and a couple of goals.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join John Brewin from 7.45pm GMT for minute-by-minute updates from the Lionesses’ 0-0 friendly draw with Austria, while Dominic Booth will be on deck for Leeds 0-0 Leicester in the Championship at 8pm.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I’m no magician. I’m not David Copperfield … I don’t know what you will see tomorrow but everything you will see, this is Oliver Glasner” – the new Crystal Palace manager attempts to temper the expectations of fans before facing Burnley, and gets his third person on while he’s at it.

FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS

I was very interested to read Magdalena Eriksson’s column exploring the question of how to stop Spain (yesterday’s Moving the Goalposts, full email edition), but I was disappointed that she made no mention of Japan. For me, seeing Japan spank Spain 4-0 in the group stage of the 2023 World Cup made it one of the games of the tournament, and I was backing Japan to go all the way after that. In the end, of course, Eriksson’s Sweden decided the matter. Both Spain and Japan met Sweden in the knockout stages, and only Spain managed to edge past them. I fancy that Spain are glad Japan doesn’t play in the Nations League” – Tim Scanlan.

Re: Tottenham signing the Harry Kane statue ‘to stimulate their no-scoring forwards’ (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). I would go a step further and put it in the opposition box. Who knows, it may even earn Spurs a few penalties” – Antony Train.

Send letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Antony Train.

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