Photo Source: Sky Sports
The games are coming thick and fast for Chelsea now we’re into the second half of the season. With the 3rd round of the FA Cup safely negotiated, Maurizio Sarri and his squad look to England’s second cup competition the League Cup. This season in the sponsorship guise of the Carabao Cup.
Chelsea make the short trip to their second home Wembley, as they take on a Tottenham Hotspur team vastly overstaying their welcome at the National Stadium. Both managers will be keen to still be in the competition after this first leg. Sarri wants a trophy as much Mauricio Pochettino needs one, the latter may not agree.
Both clubs have injury concerns, Chelsea will be missing Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud. Alvaro Morata played as the lone striker in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. His sulky antics – not celebrating the two goals he scored and his ‘heaven knows I’m miserable now’ manner – may see him benched. That’s a decision for Sarri and Zola to address.
This may be England’s minor cup competition but it’s a semi-final and perhaps more crucially it’s against Spurs. We know it’s a rivalry entrenched in hatred for some, not all but It can only be hoped that we’re discussing a Chelsea win and a fantastic game of football late Tuesday evening.
Goalkeeper – Willy Caballero has had his little run out at the weekend and he kept a clean sheet in a Chelsea win so, job done. Kepa Arrizabalaga is sure to back having been rested over the weekend. The Spaniard must be looking back at his homeland and to a certain Thibaut Courtois and thanking his lucky stars he arrived at Chelsea and not Madrid.
Defence – Sarri completely swapped out the defence against Forest but it will be a more familiar back four that takes to the Wembley turf. Marcos Alonso does like to play against Tottenham and he’ll have very fond memories of the two goals he scored in Spurs inaugural league game there in 2017. Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz will once again pair up at the heart of the defence. Luiz has his critics but he’s very a much a big-game player. Wembley will suit his style. Of course, the reliable Cesar Azpilicueta will captain the side from right-back.
Midfield – If the defence returns to the favoured Premier League starting XI then midfield is set to follow suit. Jorginho will have plenty of space to spray the ball around in fact as much as N’golo Kante will have to run around. With those two happily occupying the opposition it will be left to Mateo Kovacic to make some forward inroads. The Croatian has not had a proper run out since Boxing Day so will be chomping at the bit to get playing.
Attack – Once again it’s in the forward line that the questions are asked. With three front players in the physio room, it’s that alone that gives Alvaro Morata a – reluctant – start. It’s a shame it’s turning out like this for him. A positive start back in 2017 has seen a series of injuries and upsets derail his Chelsea career. It will be a shame if this is how it all ends.
Sarri has no option but to play Eden Hazard and the Belgian wouldn’t want it any other way. Hazard is someone else who understands the intense rivalry the two clubs have, who could ever forget the battle of the bridge that gave Leicester City the title in 2016. Of course, were he fit, Willian would be a shoo-in for this final spot in the team. The fact that he isn’t must surely mean Callum Hudson-Odoi gets his second consecutive start. If that actually happens, a game on the hallowed Wembley turf will boost both his confidence and stature. Maurizio Sarri must make that happen.
Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Rudiger, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Hazard, Hudson-Odoi, Morata
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