Chelsea v Arsenal League Cup Semi Final Preview


This week sees the first legs of the semi finals of The League Cup and on Wednesday Chelsea host London rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. The tie comes exactly 1 week after the sides played out an exhilarating 2-2 draw in the Premier League at The Emirates.

It was a match played at the highest tempo throughout with both sides determined to take all 3 points. The extraordinary level of commitment and effort shown by all the players contradicted the comments made by some managers recently with regard to the players struggling physically thanks to the demands of the congested fixture list during this time of the year.

Both clubs were involved in FA Cup ties away at Championship clubs over the weekend in which both managers made wholesale changes to their starting line ups. Chelsea’s mixture of youth, fringe and regular players only managed a 0-0 draw at Norwich City but have survived for another chance to prove their worth in a replay, whereas the cup holders were dumped out of the competition by managerless Nottingham Forest.

On Wednesday evening we can expect both managers to revert back to their strongest available sides. Eden Hazard was substituted after a knock to his calf during last week’s encounter but he has recovered sufficiently that we can expect him to be included from the start.

Antonio Conte has preferred a 3-5-2 formation in recent matches against The Gunners and probably his biggest decision will be whether to stick with Tiemoue Bakayoko in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas. Bakayoko has been going through an indifferent spell recently, especially in his attempts at goal. Playing as the most forward running midfielder, he needs to become more effective in and around the penalty box and especially when playing with just 2 up front who need regular quality support.

On Saturday, he played alongside Danny Drinkwater and neither managed to shine brightly against Norwich’s midfield. Now with the recent signing of Ross Barkley, who is a talented player who can excel in this role, Bakayoko will need to prove his worth before Barkley gets up to full match fitness.

Assuming Conte does opt for 3-5-2 the rest of the positions pick themselves. It is Arsene Wenger who will have more decisions to make. Despite a growing injury list, he managed to pick a starting line up last week that was able to match a full strength Chelsea side. However, Xhaka, Ozil and Mustafi are all now potential new absentees, whilst he will need to wait to see if any of the players missing last week will be fit enough to return.

With home advantage and a likely weakened Arsenal side, especially in defence, Antonio Conte and his players will be looking at this first leg as a great opportunity to not only win the match but put the whole tie beyond their opponents. Chelsea managed 19 attempts last Wednesday and if Alvaro Morata had had a high level of confidence flowing through him in his one on one chances, they would have won the match. It will be the high level of chance creation that the manager will want his players to focus on.


Another 19 attempts this week for the home side will surely see them victorious and be aiming at another Wembley Cup Final come the return leg in 2 weeks.



Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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