'Have more options': Rafa Benitez says he would not start 28-year-old Chelsea player in FA Cup final


Rafa Benitez would choose to start Kai Havertz over Romelu Lukaku in the FA Cup final against Liverpool this afternoon.

Writing for The Times, Benitez believed Chelsea’s best front line included Havertz rather than the Belgian.

This is the major dilemma facing Thomas Tuchel ahead of the showdown at Wembley later today.

Does he stick with the in-form Lukaku, who has three goals in his last two matches, or return to type for the big occasion?

Havertz or Lukaku?

Havertz has generally been the manager’s preferred choice this season for the grandest games, despite having the club-record signing available.

The young German started the Carabao Cup final encounter with Liverpool in January, as well as the two Premier League meetings.

Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

He and Lukaku actually started together for the 1-1 draw at Anfield, but was given the main attacking position in the reverse contest due to his teammate being dropped.

Tuchel also started his compatriot in both legs of the Champions League quarter-final, using the actual number nine only briefly in the opening tie.

But the roles have recently been flipped.

Lukaku started against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United, scoring a brace and then bagging at Elland Road as well.

Meanwhile, Havertz racked up just one minute of action across the two fixtures.

Which leads us back to the predicament standing before Tuchel: who gets the nod to face Liverpool out of the centre-forward duo?

Should Havertz start over Lukaku?

If the decision was down to Benitez, Havertz would be the one walking out under the arch in a few hours’ time.

“Chelsea have a lot of offensive options and Romelu Lukaku has started the past two league games, scoring three goals,” said the former Blues boss.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

“However, Liverpool have centre backs who are big, strong and good in the air and because of those characteristics I think that facing someone like Kai Havertz will cause them more of a problem than a target man.

“Havertz brings more mobility, with the aim of dragging opponents out of position, and he would be supported by two players behind.

“Lukaku was a big success at Inter Milan because Antonio Conte played to his strengths, but Chelsea have more options up front.”

Whilst Benitez is correct in his verdict about Lukaku’s spell at Inter, Tuchel’s men have been adhering to the striker’s skill set recently.

This was highly evident during the 3-0 win over Leeds, where the Chelsea players continuously looked to feed Lukaku early, either with balls over the top or into his feet.

A chain reaction occurred, as the 28-year-old grew in confidence the more he received possession, with his goal the ultimate sign of self-assurance.

Surely it would be wrong to remove Romelu just as he’s getting a head of steam?

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.