Capital One Cup Final Preview: Chelsea vs Spurs
Jose Mourinho is aiming to clinch his first silverware since returning to Chelsea when the Blues visit Wembley for their Capital One Cup final clash with London rivals Tottenham on Sunday.
After using last season as a transitional year to nurture his “little horse” into a formidable Chelsea side, Mourinho will be eager to start reaping the rewards this weekend.
Chelsea are chasing a treble and are firm favourites to lift the Premier League title. They are slight favourites to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League after securing a score draw at Paris Saint-Germain.
In the Capital One Cup, they dispatched Bolton Wanderers, Shrewsbury Town, Derby County and Liverpool to earn their place in the final. Spurs, meanwhile, knocked out Nottingham Forest, Brighton & Hove Albion, Newcastle United and Sheffield United to reach their third League Cup showdown in eight seasons.
For the north Londoners, this is their only realistic chance of ending the season with silverware as Mauricio Pochettino’s charges are not yet ready to mount league title challenges. They bowed out of the FA Cup in the fourth-round and, prior to this game, were knocked out of the Europa League by Fiorentina.
Spurs will be aware that Chelsea are firm favourites but Pochettino’s men can draw confidence from their best performance of the season when they fired five goals past Chelsea in their last meeting at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea team news
John Obi Mikel is likely to miss out with a knee injury.
Nemanja Matic begins his three-match suspension.
Tottenham Hotspur team news
Pochettino will have a full squad to select from for the final.
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur prediction
Matic will be a big miss for the Blues; Chelsea were significantly weakened in the games he has missed this season because they lost at Newcastle and at home to Bradford City.
His direct replacement, Mikel, will probably miss out as well so Mourinho may have to go with Ramires as the main holding midfielder.
Cesc Fabregas will probably join the Brazilian in central midfield but the Spanish ball player will have more freedom to charge forward and dictate play. The Blues should have their usual forward players, with Oscar flanked by Willian and Eden Hazard as the attacking midfielders behind Diego Costa.
Pochettino may have to change his usual policy of starting Michael Vorm in Capital One Cup matches as this is probably Tottenham’s biggest game of the season and Hugo Lloris is one of the best goalkeepers in England given his quick feet and excellent shot-stopping abilities.
Harry Kane and a couple of players who were rested in the Europa League should return here so this should be a strong Spurs line-up with Mousa Dembele possibly flanked by Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen in attacking midfield positions, while Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb start as the two holding midfielders.
This game will inevitably be compared to the memorable 5-3 game, but Tottenham may find it difficult to match their achievements on New Year’s Day, when Pochettino brilliantly chose his tactics with Eriksen tasked to make intelligent movements that displaced Matic, thereby exposing John Terry and Gary Cahill to Tottenham’s attacking midfielders and Kane.
The circumstances will be different on Sunday as there are a couple of plausible permutations for Chelsea’s starting XI, with Kurt Zouma in with a good chance of starting ahead of Cahill while Mourinho could easily go for a different defensive midfielder.
The Europa League could also hurt Spurs’ performance because, while they may have rested a couple of players, the likes of Eriksen played the whole game at Fiorentina so fatigue could be an issue.
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Check the betting odds here)