N’Golo Kante and Willian are in contention for Chelsea’s FA Cup final clash with Arsenal on Saturday, but Frank Lampard refused to be drawn on who will start in goal.
Chelsea manager Lampard seemed uncertain in terms of team selection ahead of Saturday in regard to who will play in goal – Kepa Arrizabalaga is the usual first choice, but his form has been underwhelming, with Willy Caballero replacing the Spaniard against Wolves, and the veteran Argentina international is a regular in cup competitions.
‘It’s difficult because we have competition in the squad,’ Lampard said. ‘I have changed it at times, we consider the games as we go – for big games, it becomes more difficult.
‘I know how much players want to be in these games, but people off the bench have made a huge difference in recent games.
‘It [leaving players out for a final] is difficult for me, difficult [for the players] to take, but players have to be positive.’
France international Kante has endured a frustrating season for the Blues, with numerous injury issues and fitness problems putting him on the sidelines.
The latest was a hamstring issue suffered early this month and he has not featured since, only returning to training prior to the final Premier League game of the season, but the midfielder is in the squad for Saturday’s showdown at Wembley, while Willian – absent from the win over Wolves last weekend with an unspecified problem – could also be involved.
Lampard did not have such good news regarding Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will not feature.
‘Yes, N’Golo Kante and Willian are in the squad,’ Lampard said in Friday’s pre-match news conference. ‘We will see if they’re fit enough to be involved, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek has picked up a small problem and is out of the game.’
Brazil winger Willian has enjoyed a prominent season at Stamford Bridge, racking up nine goals and seven assists in the league and arguably rediscovering his best form despite uncertainty over his future.
The 31-year-old, whose current deal is set to expire at the end of the season, has reportedly rejected a new two-year contract at the club because he wants an extra season on top of that.
Since football resumed in June, Willian has scored three goals and set up another two and his attitude has not surprised Lampard.
When asked if he expected the Brazilian’s professionalism despite a somewhat awkward situation, Lampard said: ‘Yes, I’ve known Willian for many years as a player and I have coached him.
‘If anyone wants to know the mentality of him, then that has been shown since restart. He has given everything. I would expect nothing less than he’s shown already.’
Lampard and his Arsenal counterpart, Mikel Arteta, will be aiming to win the first piece of silverware in their managerial careers on Saturday.
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