INJURY HIT BLUES TO GRANT AVRAM’S FIRST WEMBLEY FINAL?

By Rowan Farnham-Long
Jan 22nd, 2008

Following a thrilling 2-1 win over Everton two weeks ago, Chelsea are now just 90 minutes away from a Wembley date and a place in the League Cup Final. The Toffees are standing in the way however, and after moving up to fourth place in the Premier League on Sunday, a tough task lies ahead.

It was made even tougher on Saturday in the Blues’ 1-0 win over Birmingham, with Shaun Wright-Phillips limping off injured before the half-hour mark. It was the pint-sized winger who forced the last minute winner against Everton in the first leg, but he has now joined a list of absentees which shows no signs of dwindling any time soon.

Along with Wright-Phillips, Chelsea should be without Andriy Shevchenko and John Terry through injury, but Frank Lampard is nearing match fitness day by day and could possibly feature in this game. John Mikel Obi, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien are at the African Cup of Nations, along with Salomon Kalou who scored a wonder goal for Ivory Coast against Nigeria in their group game on Monday.

With first-choice wingers unavailable, youngster Scott Sinclair, who has played in the majority of Chelsea’s League Cup games this season, could be set for a place in the starting XI.

Everton also have players away in Ghana, with Joseph Yobo and their scorer from the first leg Yakubu away with Nigeria while Steven Pienaar is in South Africa’s squad. David Moyes has been boosted however with two big players returning from absence recently. Mikel Arteta recently returned from suspension while dynamic midfielder Leon Osman recovered from a broken toe to help Everton to a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic on Sunday, and both players will be key in Moyes’ drive for success.

In the two games since the first leg, both sides have recorded two wins, with Chelsea putting Tottenham and Birmingham to the sword while Everton have edged past Manchester City and Wigan, and both sides will be looking to add to their runs on Wednesday night. With Chelsea in the driving seat, Everton will be looking to overtake, and Avram Grant’s patched up posse will need to hit top gear if they are to progress to the final.

The Blues, of course, are looking to clinch the League Cup for the second year running, and give Grant his first taste of silverware as Chelsea head coach. Expect a struggle, a battle, and a frustrating 90 minutes. But have faith in the boys who take to the Goodison Park turf and believe they can do it. If you’re travelling up to Everton, make some noise and do your bit for the team. After a tumultuous season, normal service can be resumed, and a Wembley date added to our calendar would be the perfect reward for Grant, the squad, and us fans.

With just one game standing in the way of the dream, we can make it a reality on Wednesday.

Prediction: It will be tough, and our defence needs to be on top of its game to deal with Everton’s attacking threats. They will be up for it and may smell what could be an upset, but we need to quash their belief early on and stifle before killing them off late on. A 1-0 win for Chelsea.

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