Chelsea’s chances of reaching this season’s final of the Carabao Cup rests on whether they can overcome fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur over two legs.
Last season’s semi-finals saw Chelsea come up against fellow Londoners Arsenal, where the Blues were dumped out of the competition after a 2-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium.
The two teams currently sit next to each other in the Premier League, with third-placed Spurs ahead of Maurizio Sarri’s Blues by four points, three of which they earned during a 3-1 victory over Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in November.
With the Blues resting several first-team players during their 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Saturday, here is who we believe could start for them against Tottenham at Wembley during tomorrow evening’s first leg.
Predicted line-up: (4-3-3) Kepa Arrizabalaga; Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Emerson; N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Ross Barkley; Pedro, Eden Hazard, Willian
Predicted substitutes: Willy Caballero Andreas Christensen, Emerson, Ethan Ampadu, Mateo Kovacic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Alvaro Morata
Club-record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga was given a rare rest against the Tricky Trees and he is the first of many players expected to return for the trip to Wembley, in place of their Argentine goalkeeper, Willy Caballero.
David Luiz was the only one of Chelsea’s regular back four to keep his place during the weekend’s win over Forest, meaning vice-captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso could all return in place of Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen and Emerson respectively.
Cesc Fabregas may well have played his final game for the Blues against Aitor Karanka’s side at the weekend, where he was unable to convert his first-half penalty. Mateo Kovacic has been struggling with a cold recently and Ruben Loftus-Cheek sustained a back injury, leaving Chelsea short on midfield options. Ross Barkley, therefore, could keep his place in the team, with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante also likely to return.
Pedro and Willian have missed recent matches through injury, but during his pre-match press conference earlier today, Sarri hinted that they could both return against Spurs. With Sarri’s recent preference to start with three wingers in a fluid front system, Eden Hazard could be partnered by the returning wide duo in the capital.
Even with a near-fully available side at Sarri’s disposal, Tottenham’s recent form, which saw them beat Tranmere Rovers 7-0 on Friday is frightening and won’t make Chelsea’s already difficult challenge any easier.
Score prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Chelsea