Come Sunday and two of England’s top teams will face off to decide who wins the first trophy up for grabs this season. Chelsea and Tottenham, London rivals, know that winning the Capital One Cup can act as a catalyst for an inspired run come the business end of the season, and will give their all to go home with the trophy.
The two teams met at this point before in 2008, when Tottenham under Juande Ramos beat Chelsea 2-1 after Jonathan Woodgate scored in extra time. Similar to the current squad, Spurs had a young team under a foreign manager that was hungry to win, and perhaps their desire shone more than Chelsea’s on that particular night. The current squad, however, has other priorities too- they are 7th and still fighting for a Champions League spot, in contrast to the 2008 team which was languishing in mid-table.
Chelsea, meanwhile, want to win this as the first trophy of Mourinho-II. His the first trophy in his first spell in charge, and the Special One would want to start his new era with a similar victory. They have promised much this season with meticulous displays of football, but if Chelsea don’t win here then some doubts will surely creep in about the club’s League title push.
Chelsea beat Spurs 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in December but Tottenham pulled off THE win of the season when they hammered the Blues 5-3 at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day. Harry Kane, Tottenham’s boy wonder, scored two on the night and won a penalty as even a full strength Chelsea were torn to shreds by the pace of Tottenham’s attacks.
This match, therefore, will have an underlying tone of revenge for Chelsea. Any match between the London rivals is tinged with fire but this one will be especially so, given the surprise result at the start of the year. Even history is against the Blues, will Tottenham having beaten them in the both the cup finals these teams have been involved in: the 1967 FA Cup final and the 2008 League Cup final.
The Road to Wembley
Chelsea began life in the League Cup this season by beating Bolton 2-1 in the third round, followed by a nervy 1-2 victory away to Shrewsbury Town in the fourth. More lower league opposition awaited in the quarters in the form of Derby County. Chelsea cruised to a 1-3 victory, courtesy of goals from Eden Hazard, Felipe Luis and Andre Schurrle. In the semi-final, Chelsea beat Liverpool 2–1 on aggregate after Branislav Ivanović scored the winning goal in the first half of extra time in the second leg, heading in Willian’s free kick.
Spurs began by facing Nottingham Forest at White Hart Lane. They won 3–1 after two late goals from Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane. This was followed by a 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion. A home quarter final against Newcastle was their reward, and a smashing 4-0 victory the result. Tottenham’s semi-final against League One club Sheffield United started with a 1–0 home win. A week later in the second leg at Bramall Lane, Tottenham doubled their aggregate lead through Christian Eriksen’s free kick, but in the second half 18-year-old substitute Che Adams scored twice to equalise the aggregate. With two minutes remaining, Eriksen scored his second to put Tottenham into the final.
Chelsea will be missing Nemanja Matic, after the influential Serbian’s ban for his bust up with Ashley Barnes over the weekend at Burnley was upheld by the FA. John Obi Mikel will also be absent due to a knee injury. This means that Ramires will probably start with Fabregas as the double pivot Mourinho likes to deploy using 4-2-3-1. Both Courtois and Cech have been impressive in goal, and choosing one over the other is likely to be the Special One’s only selection headache.
Having rested a no of first team regulars (including Harry Kane) in the loss against Fiorentina in midweek, it is clear that Mauricio Pochettino has made the Cup final a priority. Fatigue will still hamper the team, given that they played on Thursday, only three days before the all important match. Despite this, Pochettino is likely to have a full strength squad to choose from.
Locking up Eden Hazard is undoubtedly going to be the biggest problem for Tottenham. The Belgian was perhaps the only Chelsea player to trouble Tottenham in the match at WHL and they know how dangerous he can get if given space to operate. With Diego Costa back to leading the front line for the Blues, Tottenham have their work cut out in marking the bruising centre forward. The fact that Cesc Fabregas leads the Premier League assists charts is no fluke and he would look to assist his fellow Spaniard continue his goal scoring run.
If Fabregas is the Chelsea player who unlocks all the opposition defences, for Spurs it is Cristian Eriksen. The Danish playmaker is the heart of this energetic Tottenham side with his blistering runs and intelligent passing. Harry Kane is having a dream season leading the line for Tottenham and his incredible run of form has helped camaflouge the inefficiency of the rest of Tottenham’s strike force, most notably Roberto Soldado. Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason played key roles in their victory over the Blues at home, and are likely to continue to play with the same intensity here.
No matter the result, the match promises to be a cracker-expect some fast flowing, counterattacking football on Sunday night. May the best team win!