After a 0-0 draw following the first leg played at Stamford Bridge, we face the prospect of travelling to Old Trafford on Wednesday night, with reaching our first final under Mourinho the primary concern. One could argue it is the battle of the defences with both teams having outstanding records (albeit one more so than the other). Any claims of unattractive football may be mislaid in the light of reports from one Mr Wenger, the true context intended dispersed or not. Another myth that will be put to rest is that the Carling Cup plays little significance in the minds of the managers of the top teams. It was clear from the start that Mourinho desired this his first piece of silverware, and more often than not his desires materialise into reality. Undoubtedly both teams will field near full strength squads and certainly both will set out with only victory in mind, although a score draw after extra time has beneficial connotations for the away team.
The first leg finished 0-0 in a result that Ferguson will feel more pleased with. Chelsea had two cleared off the line, one from Lampard after good footwork and the other from new boy Jarosik, showing good technique in getting his volley goalwards. It has to be noted the match was fairly even and the suspension of Robben left some people perceiving us as ‘toothless’. The positive to come out of the game was again we did not conceed, although United’s policy was more one of containment than attacking prowess.
Howard may return in goal for United, but the team that faced Villa on the weekend is on the whole, unlikely to vary, especially given the FA Cup fixture rather than a league fixture following this tie. Keane picked up his 5th yellow card and is subsequently banned for the Middlesbrough FA Cup match, adding weight to his continued inclusion on Wednesday night. The key player that may be rested is Ferdinand. He has been touted as the difference maker in United’s change in fortune in the league and if left out then Wes Brown is likely to deputise. United have been known to resort to the ‘kick the opposition in the air’ tactic, and all Chelsea fans will be praying we do not suffer any injuries.
Cudicini is expected to return to goal, but besides this change it is hard to foresee that Mourinho will change the team around significantly after another victory. Previously Robben and Duff have interchanged with Cole in the forward role. However, with Robben’s suspension resulting in him missing the 1st leg, we have no point of reference. Cole may drop to the bench to give a valuable option of increasing our attacking options in the midfield, or the other alternative of resting Robben or Duff if we are in control. Drogba has started to find his form after a slow recovery from his groin operation, growing in statue and on the back of a two goal brace. However, with Gudjohnsen’s scoring record against United and being fully fit and rested it will comes as little surprise if he is given the nod. Our other striking option in Kezman is likely to continue his role on the bench assuming we stick to the now tried and trusted 4-3-3.
We will go into the game knowing the opposition we face in the final as Watford and Liverpool play on Tuesday night. Liverpool hold a 1-0 advantage, but have to travel to Vicarage Road and face a tough Championship side. From their FA cup experiences it is easy to see that they are fallible having been eliminated by Burnley, and the bad week was capped off by losing to lowly Southampton.
Chelsea take 9,000 fans with them to this match so the support will help drive the team to victory. Should the match be a tie at the end of 90 minutes, then a 30 minute period of extra time will be played. At the end of this period the away goal rule comes into effect. Should the tie still be undecided after this (0-0 draw the only way this can occur) the place in the final is decided on penalties. For those unable to attend the match it is live on Sky Sports 1, coverage starts at 19.00 kick off is at a slightly later than usual 20.00.
A place in the final puts us a step closer to our first piece of silverware under Mourinho, and ends the waiting from the attainment of the Vialli era.
Team Prediction: Cudicini, Ferreira, Terry, Gallas, Bridge, Makelele, Lampard, Tiago, Duff, Robben and Gudjohnsen.
Score Prediction: 1-0, Chelsea go through without the need for extra time or the away goals rule.