Jurgen Klopp thrown by Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea team selection - "I was surprised"
The Croatian hobbled off during the 3-0 win over Leeds United on Wednesday following a high lunge from Daniel James that saw the winger sent off. Kovacic injured his ankle and Thomas Tuchel had rated his chances as “very unlikely” only on Thursday.
But the 27-year-old has made a remarkable recovery after being tested out in training on Friday before the Blues’ final. And it seems the central midfielder had done enough to prove his fitness to earn a starting berth alongside Jorginho in the midfield. And Klopp, whose side are chasing their slim chances of achieving an unprecedented quadruple, admits he was shocked to see Kovacic named in Tuchel’s starting XI having witnessed the challenge.
“No [not surprised about Lukaku]. Kovacic in is a bit of a surprise. I saw the tackle,” Klopp told BBC Sport. “I didn’t think that he could make it but good for him. That was a surprise but the lineup we expected."
The German has had to cope with his own selection issues after Brazilian holding midfielder Fabinho was ruled out with an injury sustained in their victory over Aston Villa. Jordan Henderson comes into the side ahead of him and the 54-year-old backed his captain to shine again after impressing from the bench at Villa Park. "We have one injury - Fabinho but Hendo played brilliantly there against Villa and he has had a great season as the number six,” he said.
Contesting his first FA Cup final since taking charge, Klopp conceded it would be tough facing a Chelsea side who they have failed to overcome in 90 minutes their previous ties this season. But after clinching the Carabao Cup, Klopp challenged his side to continue their winning vein of form.
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"My first [FA Cup final], never too old or too young. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “Massive occasion. Two things are definite today. The weather’s fantastic and the atmosphere. We are here to do our part,” he said when asked for his thoughts about the game.
“It will be tough, but we have to show desire against a really tough opponent. The boys lift themselves for these occasions. The wins, the trophies, they keep us going. We have really important games - today is massive and hopefully we are ready."
Klopp had a difficult choice in selecting his 20-man squad after omitting Takumi Minamino and Harvey Elliott from his 20-man travelling party and, somewhat downcast, the Reds manager said: “These decisions are not tough, what is really tough is leaving the players out not in the squad.”