So we come around to another year of the Carling Cup, and all that comes with it. Particularly, your attention turns to the opportunity to rest key players and rotate the squad. With that comes the possibility of giving some youngsters their first taste of professional action, something Arsenal have done extensively in recent years, and Chelsea less so.
But is this year different? Another new manager has brought about another approach to the academy, and Carlo Ancelotti appears to have embraced it, in the short term at least. We’ve seen Fabio Borini and Sam Hutchinson make Premier League cameo appearances already, with Jeffrey Bruma an unused substitute in the Champions League. With tonight’s game against QPR coming at a busy time of the season, Ancelotti and right-hand man Ray Wilkins have not been shy in their indications that they might feature.
“(Borini, Sam Hutchinson, Jeffrey Bruma and Gael Kakuta) are all players that have impressed Carlo, he has watched the majority of reserve games since he has been here. It gives us an opportunity to bring these young men in and hopefully use them later in the season.
If we progress in the Carling Cup then I am sure we will see a large number of these players used. [The transfer ban] is a great opportunity, and we will appeal against the ban, but it is a great opportunity for the young players to push themselves forward so the manager can see.”
Meanwhile, Steve Holland’s comments last week echoed these sentiments:
“We play in the Carling Cup next week and if the younger players will break through that’s the sort of fixture they need to convince Carlo they can be trusted in, and the friendly with Ipswich was an opportunity for them, and most players took that.”
The mention of Kakuta brings about an interesting situation. Whilst his four-month ban for allegedly breaking his ‘contract’ with Lens is still to be appealed, there is a three-week grace period from the announcement of the punishment until they are activated. For Kakuta, this means he is banned from Thursday, but actually available to play until then.
He’s unlikely to start, but he could feature on the bench. As far as the other three go, one of Hutchinson and Bruma should get the nod from the start, with the other likely to feature as a substitute. Borini is increasingly likely to play in attack from the start with Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge both nursing injuries, leaving Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou. Anelka is unlikely to play, meaning Borini should get his chance.
Elsewhere in the team, Wilkins has confirmed that Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov will play, and Ancelotti has given the green light for Paulo Ferreira and Deco to feature. Therefore, the predicted team is:
Turnbull, Belletti, Hutchinson, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Mikel, Deco, Zhirkov, J. Cole, Borini, Kalou
Subs: Hilário, Bruma, A. Cole, Lampard, Kakuta, Matic, Essien
Of course, they could go the way they did last year, in playing a near full strength team before going out on penalties to Burnley, with the inevitable disappointment from Blues fans and sniggers from supporters elsewhere at the lack of talent coming through at Chelsea. It’s a scene we’re all too familiar with, and have slightly come to expect.
But where’s the fun in that?