London (AFP) – Liverpool and Chelsea players stood in a show of support for war-torn Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final at Wembley.
Amid the Russian invasion of its neighbour, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson carried flowers in the country’s yellow and blue colours onto the pitch before kick-off.
Both teams stood for a minute’s applause, while a message on the stadium scoreboard in yellow and blue read “Football Stands Together”.
Liverpool and Chelsea fans were seen with Ukraine flags in their sections of Wembley.
One supportive banner in Ukraine’s blue and yellow colours read “You’ll never walk alone” in reference to Liverpool’s anthem.
Wembley’s iconic arch was lit up in Ukraine colours on Saturday evening.
Chelsea released a statement on Sunday saying the club was praying for peace in the wake of the invasion.
But they were criticised for failing to mention Russia in the brief message.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said the statement, which called the situation “horrific and devastating”, reflected the opinion of everyone at the club, including their Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
“Absolutely it includes him and this reflects my opinion like everyone else’s opinion in the club,” Tuchel said on Sky Sports.
Asked if he had spoken to Abramovich since Saturday’s statement in which the billionaire said he was passing “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the club’s charitable foundation, Tuchel added: “No, we haven’t and this is usual.”
Abramovich, who will remain the club’s owner, made the move after calls in Parliament for Russian oligarchs to be stripped of their assets.
“I have daily conversations with Petr Cech and very regularly with Marina (Granovskaia) – they’re in charge of football and it’s my understanding they will stay in charge so it will not change a lot for me,” Tuchel said.
Tuchel left struggling Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku on the bench for a second successive match as he opted for Kai Havertz after the German scored against Lille on Tuesday.
Lukaku, Chelsea’s £97 million ($131 million) club record signing, has scored only 10 goals since arriving from Inter Milan last year.
For Liverpool, Naby Keita replaced Thiago Alcantara after the Spanish midfielder was injured in the pre-match warm-up.
Caoimhin Kelleher replaced Alisson Becker in goal and Mohamed Salah made just his third League Cup appearance in almost five years.
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