Liverpool's quest for the quadruple continues, while the success of Chelsea's season seems like it hangs in the balance. Win the FA Cup on Saturday and it's a major trophy for Thomas Tuchel in each of his first two seasons with Chelsea. Lose and it feels like a step backward after last season's Champions League trophy, last summer's major investment in the front line and last week's sale of the club. Such are the fine margins and nature of knockout football.
So, what can we expect to see at Wembley? Here are six questions to consider before the FA Cup final at Wembley.
What happened this season?
Quietly, this has once again become a fascinating and compelling rivalry. After Tuchel arrived last season, Chelsea did something almost no one ever does: dominate Liverpool ... at Anfield. Although it was in the midst of the hosts' injury crisis to the extent that Fabinho and Ozan Kabak were starting at center-back, Chelsea conceded possession, but outshot their opponents 11 to 7. They created the better chances en route to a 1-0 win.
Of course, this year's Liverpool is much different than last year's Liverpool. Kabak is playing for Norwich, Fabinho is starting at the base of midfield and the center-backs are now Virgil van Dijk and one of either Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate. Throw Luis Diaz and a mostly healthy Thiago into the mix and you've got arguably the best team in the world.
Despite Liverpool significantly outperforming Chelsea on the whole this year, there hasn't been a ton to separate the two sides across their three matches this season (two in the Premier League, plus the Carabao Cup final, which Liverpool won after a remarkable 11-10 penalty shootout). If we throw out the second half of their first league meeting, when Chelsea were down to 10 men, then they've each scored three and conceded three. Per Stats Perform, Liverpool are about a full expected goal better (4.84 to 3.89), but that's not a massive gap over 170 minutes.
Some other numbers from that stretch of game time:
- Possession: Liverpool 52%, Chelsea 48%
- Final-third possession: Liverpool 54%, Chelsea 46%
- Touches in opposition penalty area: Liverpool 77, Chelsea 62
- Possessions won in the final third: Liverpool 18, Chelsea 15
Liverpool have the slight edge from what we've seen so far, but this is the best team of the Jurgen Klopp era. Outside of Manchester City, Chelsea have played them as well as anyone else has this season.
How do they possess?
Here's how all of the teams in the Premier League compare across two facets of the game: How far do they play the average pass, and how quickly do they move the ball? The former is measured in meters, while the latter is measured in passes per second of possession, or "velocity."
You'll see Manchester City and Burnley as the two massive outliers: one team that passes short and encourages players to hold onto the ball for a bit longer and another that just constantly boots the ball upfield like a latex hot potato filled with air. Liverpool, meanwhile, play longer passes when compared to most of the other big clubs in the league, but shorter compared to the average team. And they ping the ball around as fast as anyone other than Brentford and Burnley. Chelsea, on the other hand, move the ball around at a close to league-average speed, but play shorter passes than anyone else in England.