Chelsea and Bournemouth are set to clash in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup at the Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Chelsea will be aiming to take a step closer to their first silverware under manager Maurizio Sarri, when they play hosts to AFC Bournemouth in the last eight stages of the Carabao Cup this week.
The Blues made it to the quarterfinals of the competition after defeating Premier League rivals Liverpool in the third round, before narrowly edging past EFL Championship outfit Derby County in October.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last three fixtures across all competitions, with their latest game ending in a 2-1 triumph over Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend. And manager Sarri will be hoping to lead his team to a victory on Wednesday and inch closer towards the big night at Wembley next year.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, will be looking to make it to the final four of a major competition for the first time ever in their history. Having joined the Carabao Cup at the second round stage, the Cherries have had to get the better of lower league sides MK Dons, Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City to reach the quarterfinals.
Having had their hopes crushed at the hands of Chelsea at the same stage of the competition last year, Eddie Howe and his team will be gunning for revenge and will be hoping to cause a major upset at the Stamford Bridge this week.
Team News & Tactics
Chelsea are unlikely to risk star player Eden Hazard on Wednesday, after the Belgian winger picked up a knock in the win against Brighton this past weekend. Striker Alvaro Morata is also ruled out with a knee problem, while Victor Moses remains sidelined as well. Gary Cahill is also an injury doubt, but is expected to be passed fit for the game.
Sarri has rung in the changes for the cup competition in the previous rounds and that pattern is unlikely to change against the Cherries this week.
Backup goalkeeper Willy Caballero is set to make his customary appearance in the cup matches in place of Kepa Arrizabalaga, while Davide Zappacosta and Emerson Palmieri are in contention to start as the full-backs. At the heart of the defence, Andreas Christensen will get the nod for the home side, along with the seasoned campaigner Cahill.
There are likely to be wholesale changes in the middle of the park as well, with Cesc Fabregas set to replace Jorginho as the deepest of the three midfielders, while Ross Barkley is in line for a start in place of Mateo Kovacic. Ruben Loftus-Cheek should also feature from the get go for the Blues.
With no Hazard or Morata, Sarri will be forced to start with Olivier Giroud as his striker against Howe’s side. The Frenchman is likely to be flanked by Willian and former Barcelona man Pedro, who was on the scoresheet against the Seagulls this past weekend. Youth star Callum Hudson-Odoi will have to make do with a place on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Caballero; Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill, Emerson; Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Barkley; Pedro, Giroud, Willian;
The Cherries have a number of injury concerns heading into their trip to London, with defenders Simon Francis, Tyrone Mings and Adam Smith all unavailable for the clash. Midfield duo Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling are also sidelined with injuries, while star striker Callum Wilson is carrying a hamstring problem and may not be risked from the start.
Howe also has rotated his troops for the cup games and is unlikely to buck that trend going up against the Blues this week. That would mean veteran keeper Artur Boruc features in goal, in place of former Chelsea stopper Asmir Begovic.
The manager is likely to stick with a three-man backline on Wednesday night, with regulars Steve Cook and Nathan Ake starting again, alongside 21-year-old Jack Simpson, who will be replacing the injured Mings. Ryan Fraser is likely to start as the right-sided wing-back, with summer signing Diego Rico in line to replace Charlie Daniels on the opposite side.
With both Lewis Cook and Gosling unavailable, Howe will be forced to continue with the central midfield combination of Jefferson Lerma and Andrew Surman against the West Londoners.
Summer signing David Brooks did not feature at the weekend and may find himself starting as one of the two attacking midfielders, with Josh King likely to partner the Welshman. Veteran forward Jermain Defoe could be in for a rare start as the lone striker ahead of the injured Wilson.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Boruc; Simpson, Cook, Ake; Fraser, Lerma, Surman, Rico; Brooks, King; Defoe;
- Chelsea have won all three of their League Cup meetings with Bournemouth, including a 2-1 victory at this stage last season – Dan Gosling had equalised in the 90th minute for the Cherries but Alvaro Morata scored Chelsea’s winner just 75 seconds later.
- Chelsea are looking to reach the League Cup semi-finals in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-08.
- Bournemouth are looking to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup for the first time in their history.
- Chelsea have won seven of their last eight home League Cup games (drew one), since a 2-0 defeat versus Swansea in the 2012-13 semi-final.
- Bournemouth have won two of their last five League Cup games against top-flight opponents (lost three), as many as they had in their previous 22 in the competition (won two, drew five, lost 15).
Player to Watch
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
The 22-year-old had to endure a frustrating start to the season under Sarri, after having completed a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace last season and followed it up with a World Cup semifinal run with England. Loftus-Cheek did not start a match for the Blues until the UEFA Europa League win over MOL Vidi on October 4, but has been rewarded with regular playing time since.
The England international has featured 13 times across all competitions for Chelsea, scoring six goals in the process, that includes a hat-trick he netted against BATE Borisov in Europe. Linked with a move away from the Bridge in January if his playing prospects don’t improve, the 22-year-old academy product should make the most of Wednesday’s game to nail down a place in Sarri’s team.
Chelsea 2-1 Bournemouth
Chelsea’s form of late hasn’t been excellent, given that they have won only two of their last four fixtures (D1, L1). However, they are undefeated on their own backyard this term and have already gotten the better of Bournemouth once this term, having beaten them 2-1 back in September.
The Cherries, on the other hand, are on a downslide after their promising start to the season. Howe’s side have lost six of their last seven fixtures and haven’t won a game on the road since October. And injuries to several key players have compounded their troubles.
Chelsea are likely to be without their main protagonist Eden Hazard on Wednesday, but have enough quality in depth to get past a Bournemouth outfit that are struggling for confidence at the moment. A narrow victory and advancement to the final four for the home team seems the most probable outcome at Stamford Bridge.