Antonio Rudiger described the prospect of playing under Carlo Ancelotti as an "honour" after leaving Chelsea to join Real Madrid on a free transfer, as he targeted winning another Champions League title.

Rudiger signed a four-year contract with Madrid earlier this month, with his and Aurelien Tchouameni's arrivals at the Santiago Bernabeu already making for a significant transfer window.

He joins a side which has just won La Liga and the Champions League – the latter for a record-extending 14th time, while boss Ancelotti became the first coach to be crowned European champion on four occasions with last month's final win over Liverpool. 

Rudiger, who was instrumental as Chelsea won European football's premier competition in 2021, believes working under the Italian can help him reach those heights once more.

"It's an honour to play for Carlo Ancelotti," he told the club's website. "I'm convinced I can still learn a lot from him, and I hope he can help me win another Champions League here.

"The manager has played a big part in this [transfer]. After I spoke to him, I was convinced I wanted to join Real Madrid. But in general, everything this club represents is evident.

"I've always said that the Champions League is Real Madrid's competition, because that's where you see the club's real side.

"I'm very grateful to be here. It's like I'm dreaming, but this is real, and I feel immense pleasure to be here. I've never seen anything like this before."

Rudiger, who has won 53 caps for Germany, also revealed it was not international team-mate Toni Kroos that advised him to move to the Santiago Bernabeu, but Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who made 109 appearances during a four-year spell with the Spanish giants. 

"I haven't spoken to Kroos too much about Real Madrid, I've spoken to Mateo Kovacic and he's told me a lot of things," Rudiger added. "He talked a lot about [Madrid and Croatia's Luka] Modric.

"He told me: 'You go there and enjoy it, it's a great move for you'. I've never heard a bad word about Real Madrid."

Rudiger has also been in touch with another former Blancos star since making the move to Spain, namely Brazil's legendary 2002 World Cup hero Ronaldo Nazario.

"Ronaldo played in the 2002 final against Germany sporting a very distinctive haircut," the defender recalled. "When we were kids playing football in the street, Ronaldo was our idol.

"When I signed, I spoke to him on a video call. I was excited and very nervous at the same time!"

Mateo Kovacic has recovered from an ankle injury to start Saturday's FA Cup final for Chelsea against Liverpool, while N'Golo Kante is on the bench.

Kovacic suffered a knock in the 3-0 win over Leeds United on Wednesday in the challenge that saw Daniel James sent off at Elland Road, but the Croatian will take his place from the start at Wembley Stadium.

Kante has not played since April's 1-1 draw at Manchester United, but is back in the squad for the final.

Kai Havertz has not been named at all, with Romelu Lukaku and Christian Pulisic keeping their places in attack.

The only change made by Thomas Tuchel from the midweek victory sees Thiago Silva coming in for Andreas Christensen.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson looks set to play the six role for Jurgen Klopp's side after Fabinho was ruled out with a hamstring strain he sustained in Tuesday's win at Aston Villa.

Mohamed Salah returns to the starting line-up having come off the bench at Villa Park looking to score just his fourth goal in his 17th appearance since Liverpool beat Chelsea in the EFL Cup final in February.

The Egyptian is partnered by Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane in attack, while Andrew Robertson also comes back in for Kostas Tsimikas at left back.

Ibrahima Konate partners Virgil van Dijk in defence, while Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita join Henderson in a three-man midfield.

Thomas Tuchel remains hopeful Mateo Kovacic can recover from injury to feature in the FA Cup final against Liverpool, where the German promised Chelsea will give their opponents a "hard fight".

Kovacic suffered an ankle injury following a lunging tackle that saw Dan James dismissed in Chelsea's 3-0 Premier League win over Leeds United on Wednesday.

Tuchel, speaking after the game, expressed his concerns over a "major injury" to the Croatia international on an otherwise "close to perfect evening".

However, Chelsea manager Tuchel provided a positive update on Kovacic as he revealed the midfielder had been given the green light to train by the medical team.

"We will try it today, which is pretty surprising news where we can even try it but Mateo wants to and the medical department gave the green light," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"The advantage is there is no new injury, the ligament was already torn from the last injury, but heavy pain, heavily swollen.

"So we're hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it, we will try it in two-and-a-half hours in training and see. In the game [at Leeds], he was very, very good, in general, he has stepped up.

"The qualities of him and the personality, his dribbling and driving with the ball is excellent and he's a top team player.

"He played many years for Real Madrid so knows what it takes to put the ego aside and serve the team.

"We have missed him too much this season, with injuries over the season, and he is now so ambitious before the FA Cup final because he was excellent against Liverpool recently."

Tuchel also hopes to have N'Golo Kante back after the France international has missed the last three games, last featuring against Manchester United on April 28.

"It was a reduced training session because of a long journey and fatigue of travelling. We will also try today with him. He is keen to make it and hopefully he makes it to training 100 per cent," the German said of Kante.

Saturday will be just the second time the same two sides will contest both the EFL Cup and FA Cup final in the same campaign.

 

Jurgen Klopp's Reds were penalty shoot-out victors back in February and all three games in 90 minutes have finished level between the two teams this season.

The last fixture between two English top-flight sides to see more stalemates in the same campaign was Arsenal versus Chelsea in 2017-18 (4), and Tuchel expects the final to follow a similar pattern.

"It started with last season's game at Anfield, this season's draw at Anfield, a draw at Stamford Bridge, and then over 120 minutes and the penalties [in the EFL Cup final]," he added.

"I don't expect crazy new things from them and also not from us."

Chelsea are the first side to reach three consecutive FA Cup finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03.

However, after losing in both 2019-20 (v Arsenal) and 2020-21 (v Leicester City), they are looking to avoid three such final defeats since Newcastle United in 1998-99 and Tuchel believes an element of luck will be required.

"It's a big achievement to be in the finals and there has to be a loser in these finals," he said. "There is a special momentum you have to catch and a bit of luck.

"The atmosphere is right and the momentum is okay after the reaction at Leeds and everyone knows what we're up to. We want to arrive to give Liverpool a hard fight."

As for whether Kepa Arrizabalaga, who missed the decisive spot-kick in the EFL Cup final after being substituted on specifically for penalties, will be utilised in extra time again, Tuchel insists he has a plan.

"It's never done before and it's not done now. We have a plan for it. What we can do in terms of practising, I'm a bit torn about how much you can practice it," Tuchel continued.

"My players shoot a lot of penalties on a daily basis through the season, which in my opinion is good to have a certain routine for the players.

"But to shoot tomorrow after 120 minutes of intense fight and in a full stadium, it's a different story."

Thomas Tuchel hopes to have a fully-fit Chelsea squad for the EFL Cup final against Liverpool after Hakim Ziyech and Mateo Kovacic recovered from knocks, while Reece James could also return.

Ziyech and Kovacic were both doubtful for the Wembley showpiece after picking up injuries in Chelsea's routine 2-0 Champions League win over Lille in midweek, while James has not appeared since December 29.

Chelsea are seeking their fourth trophy under Tuchel, having already won the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup.

The Blues will also be the first team in English football history to compete in one of the major domestic cup finals (League Cup/FA Cup) in six consecutive campaigns on Sunday, having reached FA Cup finals in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021, and EFL Cup finals in 2019 and 2022.

The Chelsea head coach's cause has been aided by the return of several key figures ahead of the clash with Jurgen Klopp's side.

"We had training today with everybody out on the pitch, except for Ben Chilwell," Tuchel said at Friday's pre-match news conference. "It's brilliant news.

"Both [Ziyech and Kovacic] are okay, today they were not out training with separate programmes, everybody joined in with team training.

"We have no [bad] reactions, only positive reactions. I hope it will stay like this. We have another training session tomorrow, but we hope to have everybody available."

James recorded four goals and five assists in the first half of the Premier League season, and could provide another boost for Tuchel, who remains excited by the prospect of the wing-back's return. 

However, the German boss conceded that he was unsure whether James would be fit enough to start at Wembley.

"He looked brilliant in the last two training sessions," he added. "Let's wait another session and let's see if I'm crazy enough to put him on the pitch!"

Tuchel was guarded as to which of his goalkeepers would start against the Reds, with Kepa Arrizabalaga starting all five matches in the competition so far, while Edouard Mendy has starred in trophy wins for both club and country in 2022.

Asked about the goalkeeper decision, Tuchel responded: "I will not tell you. I will take the decision later. 

"Kepa played in the Club World Cup semi-final and brought us to the final, but then we took the decision to go with Edou for the final, who was back from the Africa Cup of Nations.

"The last decision will be taken after training, as always. Kepa did fantastic in the period that we had to be without Edou, so it's [both] an uncomfortable and very comfortable situation to be in."

Kepa refused to be substituted as Chelsea were beaten on their last EFL Cup final appearance, losing on penalties to Manchester City in 2019 under Maurizio Sarri.

But the goalkeeper has impressed with two clean sheets in four league appearances during Mendy's recent stint on international duty, leaving Tuchel with options heading into the domestic final.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.