Can you explain to us just how important Mateo Kovacic is to your side and will he be fit for tomorrow’s game?
“In the game , he was very, very good and, in general, he stepped up this season again with his game. The qualities of him and his personality we have spoken about a lot. His dribbling, carrying of the ball and driving with it is excellent. He’s a top team player, why he played for many years for Real Madrid.”
“He knows what it takes to put ego aside and serve the team. This is what he is. A fantastic guy, a fantastic player. We missed him too much this season due to some injuries. We missed him for several weeks. At the same time, we missed Jorgi and N’Golo, which cost us a little bit.”
“Unfortunately, because he is so ambitious, he has this injury before the FA Cup final. He was excellent against Liverpool lately. We will try everything and see tomorrow.”
“Yeah, anything else would surprise me. It started with last season’s win at Anfield. Then very early in this season, with a draw at Anfield. Then a draw at Stamford Bridge and a draw over 120 minutes and twenty-something penalties at Wembley.”
“So very close, very intense matches. We always need our very highest level to compete, but we found it in the matches. I don’t expect crazy new things from them and also from us. The game is on tomorrow. A big final, big competition. We want to be spot on.”
Due to the sanctions imposed on the club, it’s been reported you, your staff and the players stepped in to buy tickets for academy players and parents.
“That’s what we did. It’s a big competition, and it’s one club. Normally the club would buy these tickets and provide them for the parents and players of the academy. So we stepped in and bought the tickets for them.”
“I think if he plans to talk with the owner, maybe it is not his plan to talk with me. It’s fair enough. Let’s see if he gets a meeting! It is his right. We will talk to anybody. We will evaluate any situation of any player, including Romelu. We will see what is going to happen and what the plans are.”
Do you have concerns about a player’s agent talking to the media ahead of such a big game?
“Yes, we can also play both, although they lacked a bit of the feeling of being a perfect fit together. It’s very likely that it is one of the two, but we will not give the line-up today. Listen, Romelu has played lately and scored lately. He did everything to stay on the pitch. Will be our final call in the morning.”
Is this the game to gamble on the fitness of Kovacic and Kante if needed?
Chelsea have a poor recent record in FA Cup finals, why do you think that is?
“If I knew, I would change it. I don’t know. I can only say that last year was with me in the final against Leicester. And we will try it again. First of all, it is a big achievement to be in these finals, and there has to be a loser. In these finals, there is a special energy, a special atmosphere. There is a special momentum you have to catch, and for sure, you need a piece of luck to go away with a trophy.”
“We are aware of that. We feel again well prepared. The atmosphere is right. The momentum is okay after the reaction in Leeds. Everybody knows what we are up to. We want to arrive to give Liverpool a hard fight. I don’t know if there is one reason it is like this. I would prefer to point out the positives. A fifth cup final in six years, it shows the competitive spirit we have.”
“First of all, we have a chance to win something domestically – and we have been to the Carabao Cup final. We have won European trophies and World trophies. There are worse seasons out there. A lot of teams have had a worse season than our season.”
“I wouldn’t get carried away and say we have to win it. We will try everything, and it changes a lot if you play a final or win a final, I can tell you. We will do everything to be happy with ourselves and that we leave everything out there on the pitch. This is what we did in Carabao. Nothing new. We need luck, it needs to be on our side. We will push hard for it.”
“Would make it maybe more important, the final and give it more attention but I haven’t thought about it because it feels big to me to arrive at the stadium tomorrow. But yeah, you have a point.”
“If it is a weekend only with the cup final – and the cup final for the women – there would be even more attention. It’s not the easiest, no matter if you win it or lose it, to go again on Wednesday or on Thursday and again on Sunday to maintain other targets. It’s quite a challenge.”
You mentioned Kovacic has a pre-existing injury, is that something that is going to need surgery when the season is over?
“No, no. It just helped because he was already too mobile at this moment, so he could not injure himself [as badly] because he was already more or less injured, but not in a way he needs surgery, he was ready to play and fit, no pain. A conservative treatment. The high mobility is how I understood it as not an expert. The high mobility helped to escape without a huge injury.”
Have your players been practising penalties, and would you bring on Kepa for the shootout again?
“Kepa shoots in training for six weeks. I will not tell you. I have an opinion about it, but I will not tell you. When it comes to it, you will see. Even if we decide, like in the Carabao Cup final, if we have the chance, we will do it. In approaching the match, we always say let’s wait for the match and let’s see how the game goes. Let’s see if we still have a change available. Let’s see how the match goes for Edou. It is never done before, and it will not be done now. We have a plan for what we can do.”
“Practising, I’m a bit torn in between if you can practise it and how much to practise it. My players shoot a lot of penalties during a season, I have to say – on an almost daily basis. Not too much. Not that a week before a final, everybody is suddenly starting to shoot ten penalties a day.”
“It is more or less one or two per day through the season. In my opinion, it is good to have a certain routine for the players. To shoot tomorrow after 120 minutes of intense fight in a full stadium and pressure is on it’s a different story. You cannot train. There are some techniques and routines you can dig into. This is what we do but over a long period of time.”