FA Cup replays will make a comeback in the new season for ties up to and including the fourth round.

Replays were scrapped in 2020-21 in an effort to ease pressure on clubs in a campaign that was condensed due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, after it was announced on Tuesday that EFL Cup semi-finals will revert to being played over two legs, the Football Association has confirmed the return of replays in its highest-prestige cup competition.

The 2021-22 FA Cup campaign will be the 150th in the tournament's history, with 729 clubs participating. Premier League and Championship teams will enter from the third round in early January.

The FA also announced on Thursday that the total prize fund for the competition will remain at around £16million, the same level as it was last season.

Leicester City lifted the trophy for the first time in their history in May after beating Chelsea 1-0 in the final at Wembley through a Youri Tielemans strike.

The FA have confirmed the date for the Community Shield, with the traditional English football season curtain-raiser to be played at Wembley on August 7.

Premier League champions Manchester City will take on FA Cup winners Leicester City, a week ahead of the 2021-22 top-flight campaign starting, with the match kicking off at 17:00 BST.

Arsenal beat Liverpool in the 2020 Community Shield, which was played in late August due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the footballing calendar. 

Prior to the Gunners' triumph, City had won the trophy in 2018 and 2019.

It will be Leicester's third appearance in a Community Shield match, having won the honour in 1971 – which they qualified for as champions of the second division – and lost to Manchester United in 2016.

While City cruised to their third league title in the space of four seasons in 2020-21, Leicester overcame eventual Champions League winners Chelsea to clinch their first FA Cup success.

In the two league meetings between City and Leicester last season, the Foxes won 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium, before Guardiola's men ran out 2-0 victors in the reverse fixture in April.

The Jamaica Football Federation has offered its congratulations to former Reggae Boy Wes Morgan, whose side Leicester City defeated a star-studded Chelsea 1-0 to win the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday.

Youri Tielemans’ long-range strike in the 63rd minute was enough to give the Foxes a 1-0 victory over their more celebrated rivals.

“We are extremely happy for Wes,” said JFF President Michael Ricketts. “He has been a great soldier for Leicester City and a willing servant for Jamaica. There is no better way to bow out of the professional game than with a prestigious trophy. We wish nothing but the very best for him in the future.”

Morgan hinted at retirement following Saturday’s victory that gave Leicester City their first-ever hold on the trophy.

“Nothing’s been announced yet, I need to discuss it with the club, but I don’t think I’ve got too many more miles on the clock, we’ll say that,” said Morgan who played the last eight minutes of the match after being out with a back injury since December.

 “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make the squad. The gaffer asked me if I could make it on the bench and I said if I’m needed for the last 10 minutes, I’ll be available. We were 1-0 up and the last thing I expected a week ago was to be playing again, but I came on and now I have won the FA Cup.”

The FA Cup is the second major trophy captain Morgan has won with Leicester City. He lifted the English Premier League with the club in 2016.

Morgan made 30 appearances for the Reggae Boyz between 2013 and 2016.

 

Jamie Vardy will be remembered as Leicester City's greatest ever player, according to his former team-mate Andy King.

Vardy's goals fired Leicester to an unforgettable Premier League title triumph in 2015-16, when he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year and went on to play and score for England at Euro 2016.

While the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante went on to seek pastures new, Vardy remained as the Foxes' talisman and on Saturday added the club's first FA Cup to their maiden top-flight title when Youri Tielemans' thunderbolt sunk Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

The 34-year-old's fairy tale ascent from non-league football has been well documented and, with 116 goals, he lies 19th on the Premier League's all-time goalscorers list.

Vardy will have his eye on climbing a few more places yet, as he is under contract to Leicester until 2023. When the time comes for him to move on, Wales international King believes there will be a virtually impossible void to fill.

"Everyone wants to know what the secret is or what he's like," King told Stats Perform.

"But he has no secret over things which he does. You guys know that because he's been telling everyone he drinks his coffee, drinks his Red Bull, he eats what he wants and then he goes out and scores two goals and runs around like a madman.

"What you see is what you get with him. Like with Wes [Morgan] and Kasper [Schmeichel], first and foremost he has great affection for the club, the people at the club and the owner.

"He's such a good guy to have in the changing room and to have off the pitch as well.

"The hole is going to be massive when he leaves Leicester. I think he's Leicester's best ever player. And that's before adding another trophy to the collection.

"He'll be a hard one to try replace when Leicester have to do that at some point."

On the other hand, Vardy's goalscoring mantle has arguably already passed, with the veteran playing a supporting role to the prolific Kelechi Iheanacho.

Vardy's 13 goals in the Premier League this term represent a joint-lowest return since he hit the same number in 2016-17, comfortably below the 23 he netted to win the Golden Boot last term.

But his nine assists represent a career best in the competition, matching his total from the past two years combined.

This can, in part, be attributed to a slightly altered role supporting Iheanacho in a 3-5-2 system - their lethal striker partnership taking Leicester to the brink of Champions League qualification, which can be secured in Tuesday's rematch with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The former Manchester City striker scored 20 times in all competitions across his previous three seasons at the King Power Stadium but he has exploded into life this time around, with 18 to his name.

Thirteen of those have come in his past 13 matches and King believes the 24-year-old's patience over the course of a lengthy acclimatisation process has been rewarded with more than just a new contract until 2024.

"When he first came in, he was in and out of the team," he said. "It must be hard adapting from Man City to go into another team where you're not going to get the chances laid on a plate for you and you're not going to have the ball for 80 per cent of the game. You've got to learn to do the other stuff as well.

"Kel was a really honest guy, he was trying really hard to learn the system. To start with, Leicester played a 4-3-3 with only one striker and Vards is always going to play.

"They changed the system when Harvey Barnes got injured, which was a big loss because he was playing really well. I don't know if Brendan said to him, 'Look, I'm going to go to a 3-5-2 and you're going to be my second striker, you know you're going to play'.

"If that was the case, he certainly rewarded the manager because for the second half of the season he has been absolutely outstanding. He's carrying Leicester at a moment to the top four, scoring goals when no one else was and his all-round play has always been good.

"Like, anyone when they're playing with confidence and knowing they're going to play the next game, it all falls into place. Strikers go on a hot streak and he's certainly on one of those at the moment."

Youri Tielemans has been tipped to sign a new contract at Leicester City by Andy King after writing his name in the club's folklore with his stunning FA Cup final winner.

The Belgium international scored the only goal of Saturday's showdown with Chelsea in front of 21,000 supporters with a right-foot drive into the top-left corner from 25 yards.

Leicester survived a nervy finale to win their first ever FA Cup at the fifth attempt, making it one of the most famous days in the Foxes' history.

Match-winner Tielemans - the third Belgian to score in the showpiece after Eden Hazard in 2018 and Kevin de Bruyne a year later - was rightly acclaimed after the match.

The 24-year-old has impressed throughout the season for Leicester, who will now switch focus to trying to nail down a top-four finish and Champions League football when they face Chelsea again on Tuesday.

Despite rumoured interest from other Premier League heavyweights, former Leicester midfielder King believes Tielemans can achieve all his career aims by staying on at the King Power Stadium.

"It's important Leicester keep him. Only he will be able to tell you whether it's going to be difficult to keep him because you never know what certain players' ambitions are, but days like Saturday certainly help," King told Stats Perform.

"He knows he can win trophies at Leicester and he knows he can play in the Champions League - that's what all the top players want.

"So, you never know, especially with players who aren't from the UK, if they want to play in another country or try something new.

"But from what I've heard, read and seen, he is really, really happy here, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him sign some sort of new contract in the not-too-distant future. I'm not saying I know he's doing it, but it just seems the right fit.

"He's probably been Leicester's Player of the Season this year – he has been absolutely outstanding. He's got everything, and for someone so young to score the match-winning goal in an FA Cup final is amazing."

That stunning Wembley strike took Tielemans' goal tally for the season to nine in all competitions – six of those in the Premier League – and he has also chipped in with four assists.

The former Monaco midfielder, who has two years to run on his existing deal, is third behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (2,615) and Rodri (2,683) for passes attempted among Premier League midfielders this term with 2,355.

He also ranks ninth in the division for tackles by midfielders (74), joint-10th for tackles won (39) and joint-11th in terms of chances created (44), underlining his all-round ability in the middle of the park.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has been credited with getting the most out of Tielemans, who arrived for a reported club-record fee of £40million in July 2019, and King feels the former Liverpool boss can also play a part in keeping the player at the club.

"He really likes the manager," said King, who won the League One, Championship and Premier League titles during his time with the Foxes. "The manager really likes him as well and he's now playing the best football of his career.

"He's just won a trophy and [can still get] into the Champions League, so I don't think he will be in any sort of rush to get out of the situation he's in at the moment.

"The way Leicester are going now, with one of the best training grounds in Europe, plans to extend the stadium, he's going to enjoy all that. 

"He's young and has plenty of years ahead of him, so hopefully he can sign that new contract and carry on playing the way he is."

While Tielemans' strike will long live in the memory of Leicester supporters, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel also cemented his status as one of the Foxes' all-time greats with some big saves against Chelsea.

Schmeichel turned Ben Chilwell's header on to the post and then somehow kept out Mason Mount's powerful shot en route to becoming the first goalkeeper to captain the winning side in an FA Cup final since David Seaman with Arsenal in 2003.

"Kasper is someone who is made for big moments," King said of his former team-mate. "He is driven to improve himself every day and improve those around him to make sure standards don't slip.

"He's vocal in the dressing room, and the best thing for us is that he really does love and care for the club. He cares about the owner and the supporters and will do anything to make sure Leicester win a game.

"He thrives off the big occasion and that save off Mason Mount is world class, an unbelievable save.

"I was sat right behind the shot, and just the sheer power on it, you think he might get a hand to it, but he's not going to be able to keep it out. He's a world-class goalkeeper."

Jamie Vardy is looking to add to his growing medal collection with Leicester City after helping the Foxes to win their first FA Cup.

Leicester, who won the Premier League with Vardy in the side in 2015-16, finally got their hands on the cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Youri Tielemans scored the sole goal for Brendan Rodgers' team at Wembley, with a late own goal from Wes Morgan disallowed following a VAR review.

Vardy has now played in every round in the competition including the preliminary stages, having started his career in non-league football, but had a quiet final.

Neither of the striker's two shots under the arch hit the target, while he lost possession with five of his 14 touches.

It mattered not, though, as Leicester claimed the FA Cup after four previous final defeats, and that encouraged Vardy to set his sights higher still.

"It's a brilliant feeling, a really brilliant feeling. We've managed to do it," he said.

"But when the gaffer came in over two years ago, he said he wanted us to keep progressing, how he wanted us to play, he wanted us to be challenging for trophies.

"Now we've got one, we're going to be wanting some more. Now it's hard work, dedication and keep progressing as much as we can."

Leicester could cap a stunning stretch by qualifing for the Champions League if they beat Chelsea again at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Such an achievement would firmly establish manager Rodgers' side among the elite in English football.

"It was the big challenge I wanted to take coming to Leicester," Rodgers told a news conference.

"Having worked at incredible clubs like [Liverpool] and Celtic, could I go to a club outside of the top six and could we challenge and could we disrupt that hierarchy within the league?

"We'll always be a way behind in terms of financial perspective, but can we compete, can we perform and can we fight to challenge?

"And then obviously, on days like today, when you have the opportunity to create history, can you do that? Thankfully, we've been able to do it."

But Rodgers, repeatedly emphasising the financial gulf between Leicester and their opponents along with the rest of the 'big six', could offer few assurances on the futures of his cup final stars.

Tielemans, who now has nine goals in all competitions this season, would surely interest rivals, it was suggested.

Leicester fans did not have to look far for reminders of past departures on Saturday as N'Golo Kante started for Chelsea and Ben Chilwell almost turned the game on its head from the bench.

Kante had a relatively quiet outing, contesting just six duels, but Chilwell drew a superb save from Peter Schmeichel and forced the own goal that was then disallowed for his offside.

"I know the direction that we're going in and I know that Leicester in the future, I'm sure, will lose players," Rodgers said.

"We don't want to, it's not something we think about so much, but it's the nature of the game.

"But it's not to think about at this stage. You can see the happiness in the players, you can see the ambition we have, and of course you see the level that they play at.

"I don't think about it so much, I don't worry about it so much.

"I've got a really talented group of young guys that want to get better, and while I'm the coach and manager, until the very last day they're at the club, I'll always continue to do that."

Thomas Tuchel claimed Chelsea were unlucky in their 1-0 FA Cup final defeat to Leicester City at Wembley.

Youri Tielemans' stunning 25-yard strike just after the hour proved the difference in a tight contest.

A VAR intervention denied Chelsea a late equaliser, with Ben Chilwell shown to be fractionally offside before his shot ricocheted into the net off Wes Morgan.

Tuchel felt some of Chelsea's play was too "hectic" during a scrappy first half, but he did not have many words of pointed criticism for a team who will get another shot at silverware in the Champions League final against Manchester City in two weeks' time.

"Of course we're disappointed, but we're not angry with our performance or our boys," Tuchel said at a post-match news conference.

"I think this performance is enough to win the game. We were simply unlucky.

"We've never hidden the fact that you need luck in this game to win at this level. In some moments you need little details, some decisions, referee's decision-making, sometimes a shot like today.

"I think we defended very, very well. We were very aggressive in counter-pressing, we defended very high up the pitch. We did not allow any counter chances for one of the most dangerous counter-attacking teams in Europe.

"We did not allow any half-chances, any chances. I was absolutely happy with the work rate and intensity."

Chelsea have been on a sharp upwards trajectory since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard in January, but this was their second dispiriting 1-0 defeat in a week after going down to Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

That loss left their top-four hopes in the balance and a rematch with Leicester on home turf on Tuesday in the Premier League means there is no time to dwell on Wembley disappointment.

"We will talk about what we did good and what we can do better to be ready for Tuesday," Tuchel said.

"This is it in sports. There is no team that never loses, no player or no single sports guy. It is about bouncing back, showing mentality and belief again.

"We missed out on a trophy and are very sad about it. But we have another competition with two finals against Leicester and Aston Villa [in the Premier League], then another final [in the Champions League].

"We have enough to do. We cannot regret too long."

Reece James' wayward pass that led to Tielemans' winner struck Leicester's Ayoze Perez on the thigh and bounced up to hit his arm, but Chelsea cries for handball were waved away by referee Michael Oliver – in line with the present guidance.

"I didn't see it, the players said straight away that it was handball," Tuchel added.

"But I'm not an expert on handball anymore. I don't know when it's hands or when it's not.

"You need a bit of luck in these decisions. I cannot comment and give my opinion, but my opinion is not relevant anyway because I don't know anymore when they need to punish it or when they can play with the hand."

Brendan Rodgers hailed Youri Tielemans' instant FA Cup classic after the midfielder spectacularly gave Leicester glory with a 1-0 final win over Chelsea at Wembley.

The Belgium international took aim from 25 yards in the 63rd minute to spark bedlam among the Leicester supporters in a 21,000 crowd at England's national stadium – the largest attendance for a sporting event in the UK since the coronavirus lockdown last March.

Leicester needed heroics from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and VAR spared another of the favourites from their Premier League success five years ago.

Substitute Wes Morgan turned a ricocheted shot from Ben Chilwell into his own net to apparently herald extra time, but replays showed the ex-Leicester left-back was offside.

Delirious celebrations, with fans and players as one, greeted the full-time whistle and Tielemens was deservedly named man of the match

"Youri's goal was like an old school FA Cup-winning goal but also Kasper Schmeichel's save, those are the special moments you need in games," Rodgers told BBC Sport.

"Overall I thought we were the better team, we pressed the game really well, super-aggressive tactically. We were always a threat with the ball.

"Chelsea are an amazing team, that's why they're in a Champions League final but I thought we deserved it."

As was the case when Schmeichel, Morgan, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton starred in Leicester's 2015-16 Premier League title win, this was a maiden triumph in the FA Cup.

"It's an amazing feeling, I wasn't aware before I came to Leicester that they'd never won the FA Cup, they'd lost in four finals previously," said the former Liverpool boss.

"So, to be able to give that to the supporters and the owners, so special.

"I'm so proud. It's a real collective effort at Leicester City - the board, the players, staff, supporters, an amazing day for the city. I'm just so proud for everyone."

Rodgers added: "I've been lucky enough to be in six finals [with Celtic] before and lucky enough to win them. Today being the seventh was truly special.

"It's the FA Cup and as a British coach it means so much to us. I'm so proud, but happier for everyone else."

Kasper Schmeichel lauded Leicester City's "undescribable" FA Cup final triumph as a 1-0 win over Chelsea gave them the trophy for the first time.

Youri Tielemans hit the only goal in the rain at Wembley on Saturday, allowing the Foxes to celebrate with their returning fans under the arch.

That was Leicester's only shot on target, though, and the rest of the drama was reserved for the opposite end of the pitch in the closing stages.

A Wes Morgan own goal was ruled out by the VAR as Ben Chilwell strayed offside, but Schmeichel had twice brilliantly denied Chelsea before that incident.

The Leicester goalkeeper made only three saves yet crucially lunged after a downward Chilwell header and then denied Mason Mount.

Schmeichel became the first keeper since Arsenal's David Seaman in 2003 to captain a side to an FA Cup win, Leicester's first at the fifth time of asking.

"Amazing, undescribable," he told BBC Sport of the victory. "It's what dreams are made of. I've dreamt of this since I was a child.

"We've talked about wanting to win trophies, and the performance today... the determination. I'm so, so proud of everybody.

"Everybody's contributed. To get to the final, everybody's played, everybody's been sensational, all the team behind the team, the medical staff, everybody, all amazing.

"That's why when you work together, you do things properly, you have an eternal belief, that's what you can achieve."

Schmeichel dedicated the win to late Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a helicopter crash following a match in 2018.

"It's exactly that. None of you will be able to see – on the inside of our shirts, we have a picture of him, so he's always with us, Khun Vichai," he said.

"And obviously, for Top [Vichai's son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha], this is what we dreamt of, this is what we talked about for so many years.

"Today, for the fans, look at it, it's amazing."

This was Leicester's first FA Cup win over Chelsea in 10 attempts, but they must now quickly rally and defeat the same opposition again in the Premier League on Tuesday.

A win in that match would secure Leicester's place in the Champions League for next season, potentially at Chelsea's expense.

"Today is a great day and we'll enjoy it thoroughly, but we play them again on Tuesday in a massive game again," Schmeichel added.

"Today we enjoy it, tomorrow we have to dust ourselves down and can't really think about it again. They're a top class side, they're going to want revenge."

Schmeichel was part of the Foxes team that remarkably won the Premier League in 2015-16, but fellow final hero Tielemans, who created two chances and supplied two tackles as well as scoring, was a subsequent signing.

The Belgium international said: "I think the start was when they won the league. That was when something special started.

"We are just building that up. Hopefully we can continue. We have a very important game on Tuesday. If we win, we are hopefully in the Champions League.

"We just have to go again. Now we will enjoy and celebrate, but we will think about Tuesday later on."

A sensational Youri Tielemans strike and an agonising VAR call saw Leicester City lift the FA Cup for the first time after Saturday's 1-0 final win over Chelsea.

The Foxes had failed four times previously at this stage, most recently in 1969, but belatedly added to a burgeoning trophy haul that includes the 2015-16 Premier League title.

Tielemans' long-range, second-half strike proved enough, albeit only after late drama as a marginal offside decision rule out Wes Morgan's own goal and send Thomas Tuchel away empty-handed from the first of two Chelsea finals this month.

Before the Blues can turn their focus to the Champions League, though, they must qualify for next season's competition, which likely means on Tuesday defeating a buoyant Leicester side, who themselves need a result at Stamford Bridge.

Yet Leicester surely would not trade victory in that vital match for this precious triumph, which played out in teeming Wembley rain to the soundtrack of 21,000 returning fans.

Jamie Vardy once almost quit football to embark on a new life in the sunnier climes of Ibiza but now happily admits "thank God I didn't".

On Saturday, Vardy will make history as the first player to have featured in every round of the FA Cup from the first preliminary round to the final when Leicester City face off against Chelsea in the Wembley showpiece.

But things could have been very different for Vardy, whose rise from non-league football to Premier League star and England international (albeit he is now retired from the Three Lions) is well documented.

Vardy made a £1million switch to the King Power Stadium from Fleetwood Town ahead of the 2012-13 season, back when the Foxes were playing in the Championship.

He managed just four goals and only 17 starts in the second tier during that first campaign, leaving Vardy questioning his future in the game.

Former team-mate Ben Marshall revealed earlier this year on an episode of popular UK podcast 'Undr the Cosh' how Vardy had planned to hang up the boots early and head to party town Ibiza.

Vardy spoke about that time in his life and how the confidence of former manager Nigel Pearson helped to convince him to stick at it.

"Moving to Ibiza felt a good idea at the time," he told the Daily Mail. "It felt a really good idea. Thank God I didn't.

"It was one of those things. I'd never been in that environment - playing in the Championship, struggling, the performances and the goals not coming and it does make you think.

"I had a chat with Nigel Pearson at one point and I was trying to get him to loan me back to Fleetwood, just because I'd had success there. He said 'listen, you're good enough, just knuckle down, you can play a lot higher'.

"At that stage, I knew he believed in me and after that, it all clicked together. It was a learning curve. The big jump in standard took a bit of time getting used to and then the season after we got promoted."

Vardy was vindicated in his decision, helping Leicester to the Premier League and he now has 116 top-flight goals.

His 24 in the 2015-16 campaign fired Leicester to a famous title triumph and Champions League football in the following season.

Leicester have not been back at Europe's top table since, though they are third in the standings with just two games to play under Brendan Rodgers this term, and have the cup final against Chelsea to play.

Vardy pondered whether the unexpected title win came too soon for the Foxes.

"Winning the league probably set us back a bit because it wasn't supposed to happen so we probably weren't ready for it, on and off the field," he added.

"I couldn't see any of this happening when I signed but it's where the club wanted to go and what they wanted to achieve.

"The owners were brilliant and always wanted to go up and up, and keep progressing. If you look at the nine years since I've been here that's all it's ever done. It's carried on progressing."

Thomas Tuchel believes Chelsea face "two finals" against Leicester City over the course of four days that could do much to define their revival under his leadership.

The Blues have been a team reborn since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard as head coach in January and Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley is their first of two shots they have at silverware – the other coming in the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto at the end of this month.

Chelsea and Leicester will reconvene on Tuesday with qualification for next season's Champions League still on the line, especially after contrasting fortunes in their most recent fixtures.

Leicester won 2-1 at Manchester United to move ahead of Chelsea in fourth, who went down to a lacklustre 1-0 derby loss at home to Arsenal.

Liverpool, who also beat United in their match at Old Trafford on Thursday, could be one point behind Chelsea by the time Tuchel's men are back in league action and he lamented his team's failure to be "decisive" in the Arsenal game.

"Obviously I cannot judge it," he said when asked which game was more important. "These are two finals and we do not think about anything else but the two finals.

"It's a final for the cup, it's a final for the top four. We missed a chance against Arsenal to be decisive and now we have to cope with it – first of all to show a reaction at Wembley and have the upper hand when it comes to Tuesday."

Tuchel took his share of the blame immediately after Emile Smith Rowe was gifted the only goal by a dire Jorginho backpass at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, and he conceded his irritation at the result had not quite subsided.

"'I still have a hangover from the last defeat, it's always like this. I'm a bit more in angry mode, not at myself or the players but because of the result and the opportunity we missed," he explained.

"I will hopefully transform that to a good preparation and push the team to the edge to play sharp. We have to show a reaction, it's the FA Cup final at Wembley.

"I am fully focused to prepare my team better than two days ago."

On Thursday, the Champions League final was relocated from Istanbul to Porto due to Turkey being on the UK government's "red list" for travel in relation to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tuchel insists his squad should not be paying any attention to an eagerly anticipated fixture still two weeks away.

"I'm happy to go to Porto, I'm happy to go to a final. That's the easy answer - I would go anywhere to play a final," he said.

"But right now the bigger challenge is to forget the Champions League final and to be fully focused on our two finals that are ahead of us.

"We cannot lose one percentage of concentration and focus. We did this the last game against Arsenal and we got punished for it. Lesson learned and well accepted."

Kepa Arrizabalaga will keep his place at Wembley as Chelsea's cup goalkeeper and Tuchel confirmed Mateo Kovacic was fit to feature again after a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

"It's huge because Mateo has everything we need in the midfield," he added. 'Experience, power, he can beat players, he has physical ability and has played big games in the Premier League. 

"When we missed N'Golo [Kante] and Mateo, we lacked a lot of quality, energy and experience.

"Billy [Gilmour] did a huge job in huge games but it's not fair to compare him to these players because they have more experience and are a step ahead in their development. 

"It's big news that [Kovacic] is back because he's a big guy in the dressing room around important matches."

Antonio Rudiger is no stranger to putting himself in difficult and painful situations for the cause, as evidenced by the defensive lynchpin of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea revival sporting a protective face mask during matches over recent weeks.

Nevertheless, even as a player who appears to relish a challenge and refuse to back down from a confrontation, Chelsea playing behind closed doors might have done Rudiger a favour earlier in the year.

The Stamford Bridge faithful, for all the success lapped up during the Roman Abramovich era, are certainly not shy when it comes to voicing their displeasure over an unpopular change in the dugout, of which there have been plenty.

There was the vocal backing for Roberto Di Matteo weeks after his sacking in 2012. Interim boss Rafael Benitez was the villain in that situation but calling out any perceived culprits among a squad often noted for wielding player power has also marked times of tumult.

When Jose Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea ended with the then-reigning Premier League champions lurching close to the relegation zone in December 2015, he was backed by plenty of fans amid accusations of player betrayal. One banner in the ground famously branded Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa to be "The 3 Rats".

Had stadiums been full around the time of Frank Lampard's January demise, it is possible Rudiger would have faced similar scrutiny.

"There have been so many nonsense rumours around about me since last week," he told The Athletic in February, following speculation that urged the Chelsea board to dispense with Lampard. "I've never talked with the board about the situation of the coach or on any other topics."

In a separate interview with Sky Sports, Rudiger explained he suffered "immense" racist abuse online after Lampard's sacking, both an indication of the levels of toxicity at play and a deplorable sign of our times.

It certainly did not feel plausible that, in the space of four months, Rudiger would be arguably the form defender in European football and leading Chelsea's charge under Tuchel for a pair of major honours, starting in Saturday's FA Cup final against Leicester.

Indeed, the most remarkable element of Rudiger being singled out as a man responsible for so many of the ills at Chelsea around the fall of Lampard was how little he had been involved in the first team.

He started two of their first 17 Premier League fixtures before being recalled in the wake of a 3-1 defeat by Manchester City to start back-to-back games against Fulham and Leicester – the latter of which was a 2-0 defeat that effectively sealed Lampard's fate.

Overall, Rudiger made nine appearances in all competitions under the former England midfielder this season, with eight of those starts. His 742 minutes on the pitch were dwarfed by first-choice duo Kurt Zouma (1,999) and Thiago Silva (1,552).

Tuchel's decision to switch Chelsea into a 3-4-2-1 shape obviously did Rudiger and his fellow centre-backs a favour in the most basic terms of one more slot in the team being available, but the Germany international has repaid his countryman's faith emphatically.

In 21 appearances since, he has been involved in a remarkable 14 clean sheets. No defender in the Premier League, or elsewhere in Europe's top five leagues for that matter, can boast more in this time.

The six goals conceded with him on the field is also the lowest across the continent's elite divisions for any defender to have started 15 or more games from January 27 onwards, which was the date of Tuchel's first game in charge – a 0-0 draw with Wolves.

Rudiger rested up for Wembley in midweek when Chelsea went down to a lacklustre 1-0 home loss to Arsenal. He was an unused substitute for the only other league defeat of Tuchel's tenure, an unhinged 5-2 collapse versus West Brom after Silva was sent off.

In the 19 Premier League games Rudiger has not started in 2020-21, Chelsea have conceded 26 goals at a rate of 1.4 per game. With the ex-Roma man in the first XI, this plummets to seven in 17 (0.4 per game).

Those seven goals have arrived over the course of 1,530 minutes on the field, meaning Rudiger has seen a goal conceded every 218.6 minutes. This is the best ratio in the Premier League for any defender to have played 1,000 minutes or more this term, with Manchester City pairing John Stones (194.9) and Ruben Dias (148.1) next on the list – suggesting the Champions League final in two weeks' time could be something of a cagey affair.

When set alongside his Chelsea central defensive colleagues Zouma, Silva and Andreas Christensen, Rudiger's imposing qualities are evident. He has made 29 tackles in the Premier League this season, an average of 1.7 per 90 minutes, with no other member of the quartet averaging above one.

His 7.1 duels per 90 is bettered by Zouma (7.6), although both have the same return when it comes to duels won (4.8).

Of course, Rudiger has starred within a collective recalibration. In the Premier League, Tuchel's Chelsea have faced an average of 7.8 shots per game at an expected goals (xG) value of 0.6, down from 10.1 and 1 under Lampard.

Adjustments beyond the defence have also made the Blues harder to play against. They control matches far more effectively, with an average of 663.6 passes per game up from 612.7 at a slightly better accuracy (87.7 per cent from 86.3).

Chelsea are also pressing opponents more effectively, allowing an average of 10.1 passes per defensive action (PPDA) under Tuchel, behind only FA Cup final foes Leicester and Leeds United across the period in question. This season with Lampard in charge, they averaged 11 PPDA, which was fourth among all Premier League teams.

The improvements have made life a little easier for defenders, but when Chelsea step out at Wembley there will be no mystery over the identity of their standout performer at centre-back – even if he is wearing a mask. Rudiger has lifted himself off the scrapheap to become Tuchel's talisman.

Harvey Barnes has suffered a setback in his return from a knee injury, ruling the winger out for not just the remainder of the domestic season but also Euro 2020.

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday that Barnes – who has not played since a 3-1 home loss to Arsenal on February 28 – underwent a second operation to clean out the knee.

The procedure means the Foxes will have to do without the 23-year-old for the Premier League run-in, as well as the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 15.

Barnes scored nine goals and provided four assists in 25 league games for Leicester, who are on course to qualify for next season's Champions League with a top-four finish.

"We've had a slight setback with Harvey," Rodgers told the media.

"He's just gone in to have a second, minor operation, just to clear up some of the damage in his knee.

"It will probably rule him out for the rest of the season, but the plan is really to get him through this second little operation and then he'll be back for pre-season and fit and ready for next season."

 

Barnes impressively outperformed his expected goals (xG) number of 5.9 in league action in 2020-21, scoring nine times from 56 shots while also creating 26 chances for his team-mates.

His impressive form at club level led to a full international debut last October, as he came on as a late substitute in England's 3-0 friendly win over Wales.

However, any hope he had of forcing his way into Gareth Southgate's plans for Euro 2020 have been ended by further surgery, with Rodgers making clear the target is to be ready for the start of the 2021-22 season.

"It's a shame because he's been absolutely outstanding for us this season," Rodgers added. "Of course, we hoped he'd be back to play some part, but it’s not to be.

"The most important thing is getting his knee right and getting him ready for next season."

Leicester sit third in the table with five games remaining – they have a seven-point gap over fifth-placed West Ham after Monday's 2-1 home win over Crystal Palace, putting them on course to play in the Champions League for just the second time in their history.

Brendan Rodgers is hoping to write his name in Leicester City folklore by guiding them to FA Cup glory in next month's final against Chelsea.

Leicester edged out fellow Premier League side Southampton 1-0 at Wembley on Sunday through a Kelechi Iheanacho strike to reach their first final since 1969.

The Foxes were memorably crowned English champions in 2015-16 but never before have they lifted the FA Cup, finishing runners-up on four occasions.

Rodgers is looking to put that right as Leicester attempt to balance their cup exploits with finishing in the top four of the Premier League over the remainder of the season.

"We have the chance to create history. That is what this game is about, creating a memory," he told BBC Sport. 

"I have been made aware since I've been at Leicester how important this cup is for the supporters. When we arrived here that was the ambition. 

"We said we wanted to be competitive. From a football perspective we wanted to be able to compete and we've been able to do that. Now we have a trophy to genuinely go for. 

"When you fail it is an integral part of being successful. We missed out last year, so a great credit to the players this time."

The victory was Leicester's first at Wembley since the 2000 EFL Cup final, with Iheanacho once again the hero.

He scored for the third round running to take his tally in the competition to 14 goals in 19 appearances since his first-such outing in January 2016 – the most of any player over that period.

"I've been unlucky in the past few years but I need to keep working hard to go to the next level now," Iheanacho told BT Sport.

"We did it together. Without the whole team we wouldn't have won. It's not a one-man show. 

"I'm happy with the way we played together and stayed together at the end and I was at the right place at the right time. We are in the final and we're really happy.

"I think the FA Cup loves me and I love the FA Cup."

Iheanacho is the first Nigerian player to score 15 goals in all competitions in a season for a Premier League club since Odion Ighalo in 2015-16 for Watford.

Rodgers added: "His confidence levels are very high. Some of his set-up play was a bit loose today but his confidence was not affected by that. 

"Him and Jamie [Vardy] are a real threat but it is very much a team effort."

Southampton have been eliminated in eight of their last 10 FA Cup semi-final appearances, two of which have come in the last four seasons.

The Saints had kept a clean sheet in each of the previous four rounds and scored eight goals, but they failed to have a single shot on target this time around.

"It's hard to take because we haven't been the worst team," Ralph Hasenhuttl told BBC Sport. "We saw a not very good football game to be honest, with both teams a little nervous.

"That such a goal decides such a game is a pity for us. We had a good run and we wanted to get to the final to give our fans the chance of another final. 

"In the end, especially in the final third, we didn't have good moments. We couldn't get a shot on goal and this is not enough. We had the chance to get to the final. We'll try again next year."

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