Wembley Stadium, London
Sunday 1st March, 2015, 16:00 GMT
A Matic-less Chelsea side look increasingly wary at the prospect of meeting, in the Capital One Cup final, a Tottenham side that put them to the sword so effectively in a crushing 5-3 win at the start of the year. Having beaten Chelsea in the 2007-08 edition of the cup final, the Lilywhites will be backing themselves to beat their more illustrious London counterparts yet again. Chelsea have the depth in talent, and the siege mentality that comes with being at the receiving end of some poor refereeing decisions recently, to dig in deep and the match will likely devolve into a battle of wits between the wily Mourinho and the rising Pochettino.
Team News and Tactics
The Blues are likely to be chuffed by the presence of their front man Diego Costa, even if his return after serving his match bans have left something to be desired. Didier Drogba is also fit and raring to go, and will be smacking his lips in the anticipation of playing at his favorite hunting ground Wembley, again.
The next three in Chelsea’s line-up will pick themselves, barring any sudden as yet unanticipated display of faith by Mourinho in Cuadrado’s ability to step up to a big game just yet. Willian, Hazard and Oscar should add to the imperious creativity quotient for the Blues, and it will fall to Fabregas and Ramires to bolster the midfield.
Fabregas’ recent returns in the middle of the field have not exactly been much to write home about, and his contributions are likely to fall even more under the scanner without the calming presence of Matic cleaning up after him. The Spaniard’s reputation for a dip in form in the latter half of seasons, is on everyone’s minds, and the relatively long rest break the Blues have had prior to this game will certainly have helped.
Mourinho might be tempted to experiment with Ivanovic in the defensive midfield position, if Zouma and Terry can hold the fort at the back. Azpilicueta and Luis will then revert to playing in the originally intended positions, at right and left back. But Mourinho may choose instead to go with the usual formation, rather than gamble away a final with an untested proposition. Courtois will get the nod over Petr Cech, as has been the trend in most big games.
Predicted Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Ramires; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Remy
Huge expectations will be riding on the young Harry Kane’s shoulders, after having carved apart the Blues earlier. Pochettino isn’t a master tactician so he will have to rely on individual brilliance again, to beat the odds against a Chelsea side that is deeper in talent and resources. Chadli, Eriksen and Townsend will have a relatively easier outing in the middle of the park without having to contend with Matic.
Eriksen may prove to be especially instrumental in dead ball situations, especially if both sides negate each other in the middle of the field in a cagy encounter refined to counter each other’s strengths rather than celebrate their own flair. Vertonghen and Dier, at the back, will have their task cut out for them with the aggressive Diego Costa and the experienced Didier Drogba likely to take his spot at some point in the game.
Pochettino’s biggest question will be whether to start the bigger name, Lloris, in goal or go with Michael Vorm who has performed admirably between the posts in the League Cup thus far, but it might be the Frenchman who gets the nod. The last times these two sides met in the League Cup, Tottenham have had the measure of the Blues, although one of those wins came in 2002 before the Abramovich era came to fruition. There remain no major injury niggles that would concern Tottenham.
Predicted Line Up (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Rose, Vertonghen, Dier, Walker; Mason, Bentaleb; Chadli, Eriksen, Townsend; Kane
- Tottenham’s last trophy came in the 2008 League Cup Final against Chelsea, and Kaboul is the only one left in the team from that triumph while Drogba, Terry and Cech remain in the blue’s line-up
- Tottenham have scored more goals in the last ten minutes in the league this season, while Chelsea have conceded more goals than other side in the last ten minutes.
- Tottenham have come back from behind to win 8 games, all throughout this past season
- Chelsea have three wins in their last six games and no losses, while the Spurs have two wins and two draws a piece in the last six games
Chelsea are undeniably vulnerable, and look shaky without Matic, and Tottenham will back themselves to keep their League Cup record against Chelsea intact. But, the Blues are likely to be hungrier, more rested and eager to win their manager Mourinho his first trophy since 2012, in what has been an uncharacteristic slump. Expect a relatively low-scoring game, with Chelsea just doing enough to edge it.
Predicted Score: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Chelsea