Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has admitted feeling tempted to throw fit-again Reece James straight into the Carabao Cup final.
England wing-back James has finally beaten the hamstring tear that has kept him sidelined since Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Brighton at Stamford Bridge on December 29.
Chelsea can boast a fully-fit squad for Sunday’s cup clash with Liverpool barring long-term absentee Ben Chilwell, with Hakim Ziyech and Mateo Kovacic shaking off their injury worries.
Blues boss Tuchel hailed James’ impressive return to Chelsea training, revealing the 22-year-old has been so strong so quickly as to push his way into Sunday’s selection picture.
Asked if James could be ready for action at Wembley, Tuchel replied: “That’s a very, very good question. Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure if I could answer your question right now.
“He looked brilliant in the last two training sessions, let’s wait another session, and then let’s see if I’m crazy enough to just put him on the pitch or if the reasonable side of me wins in the end and we go for step by step.
“It would be a huge step, but honestly yesterday and today he looked so strong, so confident, and so, so involved in training that you are tempted to do it.
“Let’s see, we have a little bit of time, and the most important for him and for us is that he’s back and that he feels so confident that he can step up to the kind of level he did yesterday and today.
“There’s still two days to go, and then we will take the decision.”
Champions League holders Chelsea have already lifted the European Super Cup and Club World Cup this term, and will chase a trophy hat-trick at Wembley against Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying Liverpool.
The Blues will be eyeing their first League Cup triumph since 2015, having lost the 2019 final to Manchester City on penalties.
Cesar Azpilicueta completed a personal clean sweep of every top club trophy with Chelsea’s Club World Cup win, and N’Golo Kante could match the Chelsea captain with victory this weekend.
Morocco forward Ziyech and Croatia midfielder Kovacic both hobbled out of Chelsea’s 2-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Lille on Tuesday.
Tuchel admitted after that Stamford Bridge victory that both influential stars would be sweating on fitness for the Carabao Cup clash.
But now the two in-form creative talents have won their fitness battles for the Liverpool showdown.
“We had training today with everybody out on the pitch except for Ben Chilwell, which is brilliant news,” said Tuchel.
“On Ziyech and Kova, they are both OK, since today. They were not just out on the pitch with separate programmes – everybody joined team training from the first to the last minute.
“We have until now only positive reactions and I hope it stays like this, we have another training tomorrow, to have everybody available for Sunday.”