County Ground, Swindon Wiltshire
24th September, 2013
League 1 side Swindon Town host reigning Europa League champions Chelsea in the next round of the League Cup tonight. The last time these two sides met was almost 20 years ago, when the Robins were promoted to the Premier League (their only stint at the top division of English football), the London club won the fixture 2-0 and were managed by a name which connects both these clubs – Glenn Hoddle.
Swindon have experienced a poor start to their league campaign and are currently occupying 11th spot in the table after managing just three wins in their opening eight matches. But they have been unbeaten so far at home this season in all competitions and are coming into this match on the back of a win over Bristol City. They conceded the lead twice in that game, before Nile Ranger scored the winner in the 87th minute of the game. Swindon progressed to this round of the competition by defeating QPR 2-0 away from home. Manager Mark Cooper will hope that his side can pull out another upset and emulate what Bristol City did to Chelsea last season.
Cooper though will be without three key players in this game. Ryan Harley and Tottenham loanee Ryan Mason are out injured and will miss this fixture. Defender Nathan Bryne is also suspended for this match, which means Grant Hall will retain his place at the back and partner Darren Ward in the center of defence.
Ryan Mason has been the club’s top scorer this season and will be a big miss in the midfield, but former Newcastle United striker Nile Ranger will look to provide the goals in this game after scoring the winner in their last match.
Cooper will use a fairly defensive 4-5-1 formation and would look to stifle Chelsea’s attack by denying them room in the center of the park. Their attack will primarily come on the counter with the likes of Dany N’Guessan and Nicholas Ajose looking to use their pace on the wings to exploit the space left behind by the Chelsea full backs.
Expected starting line-up (4-5-1): Foderingham (GK); Thompson, Ward, Hall, McEveley; Ajose, Luongo, Kasim, Pritchard, N’Guessan; Ranger
Chelsea have had a decent start to their league campaign, especially considering they had to face Manchester United and Everton in their opening rounds so far. But Jose Mourinho knows that his team is far from playing at their best at this moment. The Blues are coming into this game on the back of an important 2-0 victory against Fulham, which was their first win in five games. Interestingly though, they are yet to win away from home this season, having drawn with Manchester United and Everton in the league, while losing to Bayern Munich in the Super cup.
A lot of question marks have been raised in the past few weeks about Mourinho’s team selection – most specifically the absence of Juan Mata. The Chelsea manager has urged the Spaniard to ‘adapt’ his game in order to be a regular feature in his side. He has already announced that Mata and Luiz will get their chances against Swindon tonight and it will be up to them to grab this opportunity after failing to do so against Basel in the Champions League.
Mourinho is expected to make wholesale changes to the starting eleven that was fielded against Fulham. In fact Gary Cahill is the only player who is expected to retain his place in the side. New signing Mark Schwarzer will make his League cup debut in the goal, while Azpilicueta, Luiz and Bertrand will form the defence. Essien will also make his first start this season in the midfield alongside Marco van Ginkel. Fernando Torres will lead the line upfront, although there is a chance for Demba Ba to make an appearance as well. Willian, Mata and De Bruyne will form the attacking trio behind Torres.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer (GK); Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Bertrand; Essien, Ginkel; De Bruyne, Mata, Willian; Torres
Players to watch out for: Nicholas Ajose (Swindon Town); Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Prediction: Swindon Town 0-2 Chelsea