New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has reportedly spent his first few days identifying transfer targets with football director John Murtough, technical director Darren Fletcher and recruitment consultant Ralf Rangnick.

United's maneuverability in the transfer market will likely depend on the players they can first offload, in what is an already bloated and disjointed squad.

The Dutch manager joined United in the off-season after leading Ajax to the Dutch Eredivisie title.

TOP STORY – TEN HAG PRIORITISES NUNEZ, TIMBER DEALS    

Erik ten Hag has told Manchester United to make the signings of Benfica's Darwin Nunez and Ajax's Jurrien Timber as the first order of business this off-season, according to the Mirror.

Ten Hag wants to make six signings, with the Benfica striker and Ajax defender at the top of his priorities, with respective £80million and £35m price tags.

The two players would effectively be the first dominoes in the row, given the cumulative hit to their transfer budget. 

ROUND-UP

– Ten Hag and United are also considering a bid for Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, according The Guardian.

– Meanwhile, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel will hold talks with Conor Gallagher over his future after his loan spell at Crystal Palace, per Fabrizio Romano.

– Romano is also reporting Ivan Perisic is set to sign this week for Tottenham on a free transfer from Inter.

– Roma boss Jose Mourinho is hoping to beat his former clubs in United and Spurs in the race to sign Paulo Dybala from Juventus, TyC Sports is reporting.

New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has reportedly spent his first few days identifying transfer targets with football director John Murtough, technical director Darren Fletcher and recruitment consultant Ralf Rangnick.

United's maneuverability in the transfer market will likely depend on the players they can first offload, in what is an already bloated and disjointed squad.

The Dutch manager joined United in the off-season after leading Ajax to the Dutch Eredivisie title.

TOP STORY – TEN HAG PRIORITISES NUNEZ, TIMBER DEALS    

Erik ten Hag has told Manchester United to make the signings of Benfica's Darwin Nunez and Ajax's Jurrien Timber as the first order of business this off-season, according to the Mirror.

Ten Hag wants to make six signings, with the Benfica striker and Ajax defender at the top of his priorities, with respective £80million and £35m price tags.

The two players would effectively be the first dominoes in the row, given the cumulative hit to their transfer budget. 

ROUND-UP

– Ten Hag and United are also considering a bid for Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, according The Guardian.

– Meanwhile, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel will hold talks with Conor Gallagher over his future after his loan spell at Crystal Palace, per Fabrizio Romano.

– Romano is also reporting Ivan Perisic is set to sign this week for Tottenham on a free transfer from Inter.

– Roma boss Jose Mourinho is hoping to beat his former clubs in United and Spurs in the race to sign Paulo Dybala from Juventus, TyC Sports is reporting.

Arsenal are looking to bring in two forwards this off-season after narrowly missing out on Champions League football.

With Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah's contracts expiring and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang already leaving in January, the Gunners are in need in attack.

According to reports, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has identified the players to propel his side forward.

TOP STORY – ARSENAL IDENTIFY STRIKER TARGETS    

Arsenal are looking to bring in Victor Osimhen and Gabriel Jesus this off-season, according to Goal.

Jesus' contract at Manchester City expires following the end of the next season, but the Gunners have reportedly been in talks for weeks with his representatives, with a deal early in the window in mind.

Meanwhile, it is understood Osimhen's agent flew to London for a meeting with Arsenal technical director Edu over a possible transfer.

With Napoli having qualified for the Champions League and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis driving a traditionally hard bargain, however, the 23-year-old's transfer will not come cheap.

Although Arsenal may be looking for two forwards, it remains to be seen if they opt for two big-money signings.

ROUND-UP

– Eden Hazard has ruled out an off-season departure from Real Madrid, citing unfinished business after an injury-plagued time at the club, per HLN.

– Sevilla will not be turning Anthony Martial's loan deal from Manchester United into a permanent move, according to the Daily Mail.

– Raphinha has reportedly told Leeds United he wants to leave this off-season to play for Barcelona, Sport reports.

– Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is set to have a £200m influx of transfer funds as Todd Boehly's takeover nears completion, the Telegraph is reporting.

Chelsea's proposed takeover has taken a huge step towards completion after the Premier League confirmed the sale was approved on Tuesday.

The Blues agreed to terms for the sale of the club to an ownership group led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss for £4.25billion earlier in May.

The takeover, which promises investment of £1.75billion into the club, briefly appeared to be in doubt due to suggestions Roman Abramovich was unhappy with the sale structure.

Abramovich denied that to be the case, and the deal appears to be nearing a resolution, though the sale still needs to be approved by the UK government.

The proceeds of the sale are expected to be donated to the victims of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A Premier League statement released on Tuesday read: "The Premier League Board has today approved the proposed takeover of Chelsea Football Club by the Todd Boehly/Clearlake consortium.

"The purchase remains subject to the government issuing the required sale licence and the satisfactory completion of the final stages of the transaction.

"The Board has applied the Premier League's Owners' and Directors' Test (OADT) to all prospective directors, and undertaken the necessary due diligence.

"The members of the Consortium purchasing the club are affiliates of the Clearlake Capital Group, L.P., Todd Boehly, Hansjorg Wyss and Mark Walter.

"Chelsea FC will now work with the relevant governments to secure the necessary licences to complete the takeover."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was "happy for a good final day" as Ross Barkley marked his 100th appearance with the winning goal against Watford, while Ben Chilwell made his long-awaited return from injury.

The Blues secured third place ahead of Tottenham as Barkley's stoppage-time header sealed a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

Tuchel's side controlled large periods of their clash with the relegated Hornets, but looked like they would have to settle for a point when Dan Gosling cancelled out Kai Havertz's first-half strike.

But substitute Barkley celebrated his 100th appearance for the club by heading in Reece James' cross in the 91st minute to snatch only a second win in six Premier League games on home soil. 

The Blues' campaign also ended on a high as Chilwell returned to action, having not played since November after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

It capped off what was a pleasing day all around for Tuchel, who also handed Kenedy his first Premier League appearance for Chelsea in five years.

"It looked like we almost gave it away again at the end and had another draw at home, but we came back strongly," he said.

"Reece and Ross turned it around in our favour. I'm happy for Ross to score on what was his 100th game in a Chelsea shirt.

"It was a mood changer for us today, and we are happy to end with a win. 

"The season was more or less finished for us, so we gave some players an opportunity to play who didn't have many minutes. 

"I was happy they could show up and take a deserved win, which is a big step-up in terms of consistency for us.

"We also managed to get [Chilwell] back on the field, which was really nice, so overall I'm happy for a good final day."

Thomas Tuchel joked Todd Boehly can watch Chelsea games from home in Los Angeles next season after the Blues once again failed to win in front of their incoming new owner.

Boehly was present at Stamford Bridge on Thursday for the Blues' disappointing 1-1 draw with Leicester City in their penultimate Premier League game of a mixed campaign.

The American billionaire, alongside Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss, is reportedly close to finalising a £4.25billion takeover from Roman Abramovich.

But he has yet to see the Blues win up close, having also been in attendance for defeats to Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as draws with Wolves and now Leicester.

While Chelsea have struggled to perform in front of Boehly so far, Tuchel hopes that will change once the takeover officially goes through.

"Was he here again? Well, that's a clear sign! He will watch on ESPN in Los Angeles next season – that's clear already," Tuchel said. "I mean, if it's like this, this is clear.

"But when we speak we will be very open and very honest with each other. He will he will get my my point of view if he if he wants to have it. 

"We are going to lose key players, of course, and we have struggled lately to win our home games. Plus he was also at the Liverpool game at Wembley. 

"So maybe when the deal is done, and he is our owner, maybe he is the lucky charm that we need. So we give him we give him some more credit."

Chelsea's point against Leicester, after Marcos Alonso cancelled out James Maddison's opener, effectively sealed a third-placed finish for Chelsea in the Premier League.

The Blues lost to Liverpool on penalties in both domestic cup finals this term and were eliminated from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Real Madrid.

With just one more game to come in 2021-22, at home to Watford on Sunday, Tuchel reflected on what has been an up-and-down campaign.

"I don't judge seasons like this because in the moment, while you're doing it as a manager, it always feels challenging and demanding," he said.

"In the moment you have to adapt to the situation and try to find a solution. It's always challenging.

"That can be from results, from the atmosphere in the dressing room, from crazy things like sanctions, which nobody could have predicted.

"So it has been challenging, it has been demanding, but it has also been a lot of fun and this is a pure pleasure to be in the middle of it and to still be a part of it."

Chelsea are set to lose a number of key players on free transfers in the coming weeks and are unable to bring in replacements until their takeover is finalised.

Tuchel has already seen leaders Manchester City strengthen with the addition of Erling Haaland, while Liverpool recruited Luis Diaz from Porto in January.

The situation at Stamford Bridge my remain unclear for now, but Tuchel wants to be active in the upcoming transfer window.

"First of all, of course I think we can do better next season. It's not a lot, just these margins," he said. "We will look into the new season.

"It is like this, but we have lacked huge quality without the injured N'Golo [Kante], Ben Chilwell, Reece James, if you see him in the last weeks.

"It is maybe a miracle we are in the top three the whole season without these key players because we missed them for weeks and weeks and weeks and it never stopped for us. 

"Maybe this just needs to change so that we have everybody available. Liverpool bought a fantastic player in the winter to make the existing squad stronger. 

"Man City signed Haaland already to make the existing squad stronger. We are losing players so at the moment my focus is to build a strong team and see what's possible."

Thomas Tuchel said Chelsea must find a solution to N'Golo Kante's fitness struggles after the Blues came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Leicester City.

Marcos Alonso volleyed home to cancel out James Maddison's opener in front of Todd Boehly, part of a consortium looking to take ownership of the club, with the Blues all but securing a third-place finish in the Premier League despite having won just one of their last five league games (three draws, one loss).

Tuchel's men have now drawn 11 league games during a frustrating season, more than they have managed in a single campaign since recording 10 stalemates when finishing 10th in 2015-16.

World Cup winner Kante played the first 72 minutes against his former club before being replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but has been linked with a move away with his Stamford Bridge contract due to expire in 2023.

The 31-year-old has only started 20 of the Blues' 37 league games this term, featuring for a total of just 1,688 minutes in the Premier League and missing out entirely on 12 of the team's league fixtures.

Speaking in his post-match press conference, Tuchel said the midfielder was Chelsea's "key player", stressing the need to resolve his fitness issues.

Tuchel also likened Kante to the players such as Mohammed Salah, Kylian Mbappe and several other world stars, claiming he lifts the rest of the side when fit.

"I think he is our key, key, key player, but key, key, key players need to be on the pitch. He plays only 40 per cent of the games, so then it is maybe a miracle that we arrive in third place," Tuchel said.

"He is our Mo Salah, he is our [Virgil] van Dijk, he is our [Kevin] De Bruyne. He is simply that player, he is our Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

"He is that guy who makes the difference and if you only have him for 40 per cent then it is a huge problem. Given that percentage, it is maybe a miracle that he produces results. 

"It puts everything into perspective as I saw Liverpool without Van Dijk last season and they struggled heavily. You see the difference. N'Golo is our key player and we need him on the pitch.

"It's hard to live with. It's important for him to be there and to have the rhythm. I think he played okay but he can play so much better. But when was the last game he started? It was weeks ago. So he constantly starts getting rhythm, but once he has that, there comes a little injury and he's out again.

"Last year, in the last five matches of the Champions League, he got the [man of the match] trophy. This guy who gets man of the match in every Champions League game, he is only here for 40-something per cent of the matches. This is huge for us."

Meanwhile, Chelsea were once again left to rely on their wing-backs to provide attacking impetus against the Foxes, with Reece James claiming his eighth league assist of the season by teeing up Alonso's goal.

James has now created twice as many goals this season as in his previous two Premier League campaigns combined (four assists in 56 appearances), while the Blues also racked up 20 shots to Leicester's two over the course of the contest.

Christian Pulisic was guilty of missing Chelsea's best chance to claim a second-half winner as the hosts created 1.64 expected goals (xG) to the Foxes' 0.09, and while Tuchel was content with his team's performance, he was again left to bemoan their lack of cutting edge.  

"We were the better team and deserved to win," he added. "We didn't allow any chances and got punished by a shot from outside the box. We created enough to win, didn't allow transitions and chances for Leicester. So, I am fine with the performance.

"It's a bit of a broken record, we did not take what we deserve. We needed a goal from a wing-back and an assist from a wing-back."

Chelsea will round off their Premier League campaign with another home match on Sunday, when relegated Watford travel to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea all but secured a third-place Premier League finish with a 1-1 draw against Leicester City as Marcos Alonso coolly cancelled out James Maddison's excellent opener.

Alonso volleyed home late in the first half after Maddison found the back of the net from 20 yards, but the Blues spurned several chances to find a winner.

Although Chelsea failed to respond to Saturday's FA Cup final loss with a victory, the Blues' significant goal difference advantage over Tottenham means they all but guaranteed a third-place finish with the draw.

Thomas Tuchel's men will also be grateful for having taken another step towards the end of a challenging season as the club hopes for a resolution to the protracted takeover saga involving the Todd Boehly-led consortium.

The visitors needed just seven minutes to take the lead, with Maddison firing an excellent long-range strike beyond Edouard Mendy after latching onto a loose ball outside the area.

But that proved to be the Foxes' only shot of the first half as Chelsea began to dominate possession, with Kasper Schmeichel forced to tip Trevoh Chalobah's fierce 25-yard effort over the crossbar 10 minutes in.

Thiago Silva headed over from Reece James' corner after half an hour, but the Blues levelled just five minutes later when Alonso fired home at the near post after racing onto James' lofted pass.

Romelu Lukaku nodded Hakim Ziyech's left-wing delivery wide as Chelsea continued to dominate, but Christian Pulisic was guilty of the Blues' worst miss with the goal gaping just after the hour.

Chalobah then headed straight at Schmeichel as the Chelsea pressure continued, but Brendan Rodgers' men clung on to deny Chelsea a rare home win at the end of a difficult campaign.

What does it mean? Chelsea close in on third, but home comforts still lacking

With a three-point advantage over Tottenham and a goal difference 18 better than that of Antonio Conte's men, Chelsea are virtually assured of their first top-three Premier League finish since the 2018-19 campaign.

However, Chelsea have won on just one of their last five outings at Stamford Bridge, limping over the line as they search for an end to the off-pitch uncertainty around the club.

Creative James leads the way

Although Alonso applied a fine volleyed finish to score Chelsea's equaliser, he was teed up by a sumptuous chipped ball from James, who has now recorded eight Premier League assists this season.

That is the most a Chelsea player aged 22 or under has managed in a single league campaign since Eden Hazard in 2012-13 (11), while only Mason Mount (10) has more for the Blues this term.

Maddison strikes from range again

Despite Leicester enduring an underwhelming season, Maddison has enjoyed his best goalscoring campaign for the Foxes, netting his 11th league goal of the season to open the scoring.

Since his Premier League debut in August 2018, meanwhile, the midfielder has scored 14 goals from outside the area in the competition – only James Ward-Prowse (15) has scored more in that time. 

What's next? 

Chelsea finish their Premier League season at home to Watford on Sunday, while Leicester host Southampton on the same day.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has said he is hopeful the takeover of the club will go through "as quickly as possible".

The Blues agreed to terms for the sale of the club to an ownership group led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss for £4.25billion earlier in May.

The takeover, which promises investment of £1.75billion into the club, was expected to be completed later this month, but recent reports have suggested Roman Abramovich could scupper the deal by refusing to the sale structure.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Chelsea's game with Leicester City, Tuchel simply said he wanted things to happen sooner rather than later.

"I'm aware [of the reports] but I've no new information," he said. "I've not been informed about the character of the issues that have arrived. So let's wait.

"I'm still convinced it's in good hands, not my hands. Hopefully, it will go through as quickly as possible."

Chelsea agonisingly lost the FA Cup final on Saturday to Liverpool in a penalty shoot-out, the second time they have been beaten in such fashion by the Reds having also been denied in the EFL Cup final in February.

However, Tuchel was keen to dismiss the idea that losing two shoot-outs makes the season a failure for his team, who also fell away in the Premier League title race after a run of games between December and January that saw them win only one of seven outings (D5, L1).

Chelsea will confirm third place in the league should they beat Leicester at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

"I refuse to judge the season by two penalty shoot-outs," Tuchel insisted. "If we won both, it would be one of the most successful seasons with four titles [after winning the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup].

"We lost two but it doesn't make it less impressive what the team put in. But we're the first to admit that it's not the same to play a final and win a final.

"So it's a bit of an imbalance judging the season given the circumstances. We struggled with corona, long-term injuries, a war that had a big effect on our club in particular.

"There's always room for improvement, but we arrived in this [FA Cup] with key players out, Mateo [Kovacic] and N'Golo [Kante] with only half a training session, with the club sanctions, there is a lot of things that are impressive. Hopefully, we can come third and that is progression.

"We maybe compete against the best teams to play in this league. So from there we go. There is no need to lose sleep and think we should've done this and this.

"There is a lot of ambition in us that we are not satisfied."

Thomas Tuchel has no idea if Andreas Christensen will play for Chelsea again after the defender ruled himself out of the FA Cup final for "private" reasons.

Christensen's contract expires at the end of the month and Barcelona are the favourites to sign him on a free transfer.

The Denmark international started in the 3-0 Premier League win at Leeds United, but was not in the squad for a defeat to Liverpool on penalties on the FA Cup final at Wembley last Saturday.

Blues boss Tuchel on Wednesday confirmed the centre-back told him he was unavailable on the morning of the game.

Tuchel is unsure if Christensen will play in the London club's two remaining Premier League games against Leicester City on Thursday and Watford three days later, as they strive to secure third place. 

Asked if Christensen will return, the German said in a press conference: "Not sure yet if he's involved tomorrow and at the weekend.

"Andreas came on the morning of the match and told me he was not ready to play.

"He had his reasons, they stay private and confidential, but it was not the first time as you can see over the last weeks we had some of the same situations why he did not play so regularly.

"We thought that we are in a good progression and good development because he played very strong in the match before the final against Leeds but the conversation took place and we have to respect it and we of course respected it and he has our support.

"It is unlikely for the weekend, it was on very short notice before the cup final and other matches in the weeks before. So no chance I have any prediction for tomorrow and the weekend."

Timo Werner will miss the clash with Leicester due to a thigh injury, while Kai Havertz also has a thigh problem and will be monitored ahead of the game.

Antonio Rudiger said the sanctions placed on Chelsea by the UK government were not the reason behind his decision to leave the club.

Germany defender Rudiger has been a crucial player for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea but has not agreed to a new contract.

The former Roma centre-back will therefore leave at the end of the season on a free transfer, with Real Madrid his likely destination.

Rudiger has helped Chelsea to four FA Cup finals, winning one, and a Champions League success since joining in 2017. The UEFA Super Cup, Europa League and FIFA Club World Cup are also included in his honours.

When confirming that Rudiger had asked to leave Chelsea in April, Tuchel suggested that the sanctions placed on the club's owner Roman Abramovic in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant the Blues were unable to match the 29-year-old's financial demands.

Rudiger, however, insisted that the sanctions had no impact on his decision.

"I don’t want to go too deep into things," he told reporters at Wembley on Saturday, after Chelsea lost 6-5 on penalties to Liverpool in the FA Cup final, their third consecutive defeat in the competition's showpiece.

"There was a chance but sanctions were not the problem.

"It’s been five years with ups and downs as normal. There were a lot of positive things, but that's why I'm even more frustrated because I wanted to have a different ending.

"It's about both sides. Chelsea have been great to me and I have been great for Chelsea. I am very, very thankful, both me and my family.

"I became a man here. My kids were born here and everything. London, and especially Chelsea, will always be special to me."

Chelsea have become the first side since Newcastle United (1974, 1998 and 1999) to lose on three consecutive FA Cup final appearances, while the Blues are the first team since Middlesbrough in 1996-97 to lose both of England's domestic cup finals in the same campaign, after their penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool in the EFL Cup final in February.

"I think it was a good game just like the EFL Cup final. We had chances, they had chances," reflected Rudiger.

"But at the end of the day we know that penalties are always a lottery and we lost.

"It's about winning, it's not about next season. The game was about today and it was there to take. Unfortunately we didn't win.

"It's always difficult to say whether we are lucky or unlucky. For myself it's the third time [I have lost an FA Cup final] so you can't always say unlucky, unlucky, unlucky."

Rudiger has two games left before he leaves Chelsea, with the Blues hosting Leicester City on Thursday before closing out their season against Watford.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said he has "no regrets" about his team's performance in the FA Cup final against Liverpool, despite defeat.

The Blues were beaten by Jurgen Klopp's side for the second time at Wembley – having also lost the EFL Cup final in February – and again it was on penalties.

After a goalless 120 minutes, Cesar Azpilicueta and Mason Mount failed to score from the spot, and though Edouard Mendy saved from Sadio Mane, Kostas Tsimikas won it for Liverpool with his effort from 12 yards.

It was another tight contest between Chelsea and Liverpool, having drawn both league games against one another this season, but Tuchel was not in the mood to be too downtrodden by events, despite disappointment at missing out on another cup to his German counterpart.

"Like in the last final, no regrets," the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain head coach said in his post-match media conference. 

"I told the team I was proud. I was happy before the match to arrive with this group. We were competitive, we made life difficult for them. We struggled in the first 15 minutes, then we were excellent through whole match.

"Disappointed of course, sad, but at same time proud. I was sure we would win today, unfortunately I was not right. We have to keep going, that's life in sports."

Tuchel also cleared up some questions around players, with Kai Havertz not making the squad and Timo Werner saying he could not play despite being named on the bench.

"Kai did not train yesterday because of hamstring problems," Tuchel said. "We tried everything but it was not better."

On Werner, the German confirmed it was a hamstring issue, and added: "Timo felt uncomfortable during the warm-up and said he can not play."

Chelsea became the first team in the history of the FA Cup to lose the final in three consecutive years (2020 vs Arsenal, 2021 vs Leicester, 2022 vs Liverpool), but the 48-year-old outlined how he feels his team can close the gap on rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, with the Blues sitting 16 points behind the second-placed Reds in the Premier League.

"I think we have proved we can play with peak performances against them," he insisted. "The difference at the moment is they can do it [consistently] but we struggle to do that. They came here with just Fabinho missing, we have had a number of players out… That is where the gap comes from.

"I think we have what it takes to win trophies. We won the Club World Cup and Super Cup, so it is not a trophy-less season.

"Good in the Champions League and did well in both domestic cups. We are capable of peak performances, but Man City and Liverpool showed you need to be on top of your game all the time."

Of course it was penalties. It was never not going to be penalties.

Thomas Tuchel chose not to bathe the game in narrative and left Kepa Arrizabalaga on the bench this time, but it was another substitute who stepped up to deal Chelsea their second shoot-out agony against Liverpool this season.

The unlikely hero was Kostas Tsimikas, who stepped up to slot home the winning penalty and give the Reds their second trophy of 2021-22.

It meant that Jurgen Klopp became only the second manager to win the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup all with one English club, after Alex Ferguson.

He is also the first German to win the FA Cup and just the second Liverpool manager to take charge of the club in the final of four major domestic/European competitions (EFL Cup, Europa League, Champions League and FA Cup), after the great Bob Paisley. This is another golden era for the Merseysiders, no doubt about it.

As the sun shone down on Wembley Stadium, awash in a sea of blue and red and with a noise that could make the arch quiver, Chelsea and Liverpool played out their latest edition of "No, my German coach is better!"

Both teams had already contested three stunningly close encounters this season, drawing in both league games and with the EFL Cup final having to be decided by the 22nd penalty of a shoot-out.

Why did we ever think this meeting would be different?

The FA Cup final is one of the most traditional days in the football calendar, with 'Abide with Me', the national anthem and a royal presence on show.

 

Tradition was missing from the touchline though as both Tuchel and Klopp arrived dressed in tracksuits and baseball caps, while Chelsea for some reason decided to play in their changed kit of all yellow, perhaps trying to evoke memories for Liverpool of their first-half scare in the recent Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

The attire may have been casual, but the start from Liverpool was anything but.

It was a case of sun's out, guns out for the Reds as they set about attacking Chelsea from the off, showing more of the intense counter-pressing that saw them through their semi-final with Manchester City a few weeks ago.

As in the EFL Cup final, Luis Diaz was a nuisance on the left, putting two balls into the box that very nearly found team-mates, before the Colombian was denied by Edouard Mendy when put through one-on-one by a sumptuous Trent Alexander-Arnold pass.

But Chelsea had good chances of their own, with Christian Pulisic putting an effort wide while Marcos Alonso was thwarted by Alisson.

It was difficult for much momentum to be gained with four lengthy stoppages for injuries, including Mohamed Salah reliving his experience from the 2018 Champions League final and having to come off in the first half.

Salah's replacement Diogo Jota fired over from an Andrew Robertson cross, while Romelu Lukaku did the same as he tried to outmuscle Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool managed nine shots to Chelsea's three in the opening 45 minutes, with 42 final third entries to their opponents' 18.

Despite that, a well-organised defence from the Blues saw the score remain level, and you wondered just what would it take to separate these two seemingly inseparable entities?

It was Chelsea's turn to start brightly after the break – Alonso and Pulisic going close again. More chances spurned.

As was the case with Liverpool, that initial burst died down, allowing the Reds to have a couple of shots narrowly miss the target through Diaz and Jota.

The woodwork was struck three times in the second half as both teams continued to try, and continued to fail. 

Van Dijk going off, and he was later seen to be hobbling, presented another injury concern for Liverpool heading into extra-time and Chelsea attempted to give Joel Matip a blistering welcome. Yet Liverpool stood firm.

Diaz received a standing ovation as he left the field, his second excellent performance in a Wembley final for the club, and he only joined on the last day of January.

The former Porto man was the first player to have six shots in an FA Cup final since Anthony Martial for Manchester United in 2016, who also did not score.

 

A big rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone went up from the Liverpool end at half-time in extra time while Chelsea fans waved their flags, one last effort to give their teams the slimmest of edges. But this one was destined for spot-kicks.

An early miss from Cesar Azpilicueta meant it looked like an extra-time substitute was going to yet again be his team's downfall, only for the Spaniard to be given a reprieve when Sadio Mane drilled at compatriot Mendy. Sudden death.

But Alisson had a save in his locker, too, getting down to his left to keep out Mason Mount's timid effort, setting the stage for Tsimikas, who had replaced Andrew Robertson, to send Mendy the wrong way and spark celebrations and smoke bombs aplenty in the Liverpool end.

It was yet more domestic cup heartbreak for Chelsea, who having appeared in five of the last six FA Cup finals, have only won one of them.

Liverpool's recent FA Cup record, however, was significantly worse. Klopp had only made it as far as the fifth round on one occasion in six attempts, going out in the fourth round four times and the third round once.

In fairness to Chelsea, much like the EFL Cup final, this one could have gone either way, and it must be remembered that having been in charge of Chelsea for just one year and 108 days, Tuchel has already overseen four major finals, matching Jose Mourinho.

As it was in February, this was Liverpool's day, finding those fine margins and getting over the line to do the EFL Cup and FA Cup double. Not bad for a team that supposedly didn't care about the cups.

A quadruple might now look unlikely given City's league form, but another final, a chance for a third trophy this term, awaits on May 28 in Paris – Real Madrid the opponents.

You'd not bet against that one going to penalties, either.

Konstantinos Tsimikas scored the winning penalty as Liverpool kept their quadruple hopes alive with a 6-5 shoot-out success over Chelsea after an absorbing FA Cup final.

Extra-time substitute Tsimikas sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way with the decisive kick after Alisson saved from Mason Mount, as Jurgen Klopp's side secured a repeat of February's EFL Cup final win after two hours of action ended 0-0.

Liverpool had been dealt a huge blow when Mohamed Salah was forced off through injury in the first half, with Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson also substituted after 90 minutes were through.

But the Reds dug deep to condemn Chelsea to their third consecutive FA Cup final loss, and they could yet add the Premier League and Champions League trophies to their domestic cup double in the coming weeks.

Liverpool may have lost ground in the Premier League title race to Manchester City, but they could claim a second trophy of the campaign when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A Wembley Stadium meeting between the Blues and the Reds is, of course, nothing new, with Thomas Tuchel paying the penalty – literally – for his ill-fated introduction of Kepa Arrizabalaga in February's EFL Cup final loss.

Revenge will certainly be on Chelsea's minds after substitute Kepa missed the decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out at the end of that goalless draw, and they will be desperate to avoid becoming the first team to lose both domestic English cup finals in the same season since Middlesbrough in 1996-97.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, their pursuit of the quadruple, and with it, footballing immortality, hinges on their ability to see off the Blues.

Who will be crowned the latest winners of football's oldest national competition? Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta numbers ahead of these two rivals' fourth meeting of the season.

Wembley regulars hunting cup success

Chelsea and Liverpool have met in the final of the FA Cup on just one previous occasion, with Ramires and Didier Drogba firing the London club – then managed by Roberto Di Matteo – to victory just over a decade ago on May 5, 2012.

Both sides have significant pedigree in the competition, with Chelsea making their 16th final appearance and Liverpool featuring in their 15th – only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have made more such appearances than the duo.

However, neither side have had it all their own way when making it this far, with Chelsea losing each of the last two finals.

The Blues are the first team to qualify for three consecutive finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03, but another defeat would make them the first team since Newcastle United in 1998-99 to lose on their last three final appearances (1973-74, 1997-98, and 1998-99).

Liverpool, however, have lifted the trophy on just 50 per cent of their previous final appearances (7/14). Only two teams have a worse success rate having reached 10 or more finals (Everton, 5/13, and Newcastle, 6/13).

 

Fourth time lucky as deadlocked rivals meet again?

Having both made their names coaching Bundesliga sides Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel and Klopp are no strangers to one another, and have become accustomed to head-to-head meetings this season.

Chelsea and Liverpool have already met three times this campaign, twice in the Premier League and once in the EFL Cup final, with each of those games ending level.

Having clung on with 10-men to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, Chelsea fought back from two goals down in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in January before enduring penalty heartache at Wembley the following month.

 

The last fixture between two English top-fight teams to see more draws in the same campaign was Arsenal v Chelsea in 2017-18 (four).

Fans of a penalty shoot-out, then, could be in for more entertainment on Saturday. 

The Mane for the big occasion

The electrifying form of January arrival Luis Diaz means Klopp's Reds have never had such attacking depth available, but could one of his longest-serving attackers make the difference here?

Since arriving at Anfield in 2016, Sadio Mane has scored six times against Chelsea, with no other player scoring more often against the Blues in that time.

Mane made an important contribution to Liverpool's 3-2 semi-final win over Manchester City, becoming the first player to score a Wembley brace for the club since Steve McManaman in the 1995 League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers.

Should Mane again find the net against one of his favourite opponents, he would become the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive Wembley appearances (when used as a neutral venue) since Phillipe Coutinho in April 2015 and February 2016.

 

Can Werner haunt his former suitors? 

Chelsea forward Timo Werner made headlines on Friday after claiming to have chosen Stamford Bridge over Anfield when he left RB Leipzig in 2020.

And the Germany international will hope to continue his excellent FA Cup campaign if he is chosen to lead the line at Wembley.

No player has made more goal contributions in the competition than Werner this season, with the 26-year-old recording two goals and three assists in the Blues' cup run.

While that tally is more than any Liverpool player has managed in the competition this term, it's also the most any Chelsea player has registered in a single FA Cup campaign since Pedro (six) and Willian (seven) both impressed in 2016-17.

However, Chelsea ended that season by falling to a 2-1 final defeat to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, so Werner will be hoping any contribution he can make will prove more decisive.

 

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