Despite being the stronger side and having convincingly beaten their opposition less than two weeks ago, no one should be too confident that Chelsea will come away victorious on Wednesday night. Over the past few years, the League Cup has been a miserable competition, Goodison Park has been a miserable away ground and, aside from this month’s victory, Everton have been a miserable opposition to play. David Moyes, as much as any other manager, has shown a knack for taming, frustrating and paining Chelsea, and will be really keen to do so in a competition which his side can realistically think about winning. Andre Villas-Boas, though, has looked like a manager capable of breaking old jinxes, and certainly has the potential to lead his team to victory.
In terms of recent form, Everton will come into this game with some momentum after their very satisfying away victory against Fulham. Whilst nine-man Chelsea were unlucky to not come away with anything after a frenetic match at Loftus Park, Everton had some luck to score two very late goals and snatch the points at Craven Cottage. These two results do not reflect on the recent form of either side, though. The Blues had won three games in a row, scoring 13 goals, while the Toffees had previously lost three in a row, including, of course, their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea.
As said, the League Cup will be seen as a winnable trophy for Moyes, so he is likely to opt for his strongest side in the hope of reaching the quarter-finals. There shouldn’t be too many changes from their win on Sunday, but the Everton boss may well be tempted to recall substitutes Seamus Coleman, Tim Cahill and Louis Saha to the starting line-up. Saha was ineffective at Stamford Bridge earlier this month, but scored the crucial goal against Fulham and, as we all know, has a fantastic record against Chelsea, and seems to play particularly well against England captain John Terry.
It’s a lot more difficult to predict Villas-Boas’ line-up. Whilst he won’t underestimate the challenge of the home side, and would, no doubt, like to stay in the competition, there are a number of reasons why he probably won’t opt for his strongest side. Firstly, it would be nice to win it, but it is only the League Cup, and should be bottom of the priority list for the season. Secondly, because he’ll want to give his squad – Salomon Kalou and Paulo Ferreira – and younger players – Romelu Lukaku and Josh McEachran – the chances they deserve. Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, he’ll want to rest his best players: the team are half way through a seven game run which spans three weeks, and a number of them just played 45 minutes with just nine men. One man who could be included, however, is Fernando Torres, who has scored four goals in his last four games.
All in all, it doesn’t look to good for Chelsea: bogey team, bogey ground, bogey competition coming just after a painful and tiring defeat to QPR. Saha to score the winner might be a good bet, but maybe, just maybe, Torres could play a crucial role on Merseyside.