Our League Cup campaign begins with an away trip to Swindon on Tuesday night. After a good 2-0 win against Fulham on Saturday night confidence should be buoyed for an away fixture against lower league opposition in a tournament that Jose Mourinho has a good record in. The league cup was won in his first season in charge at Chelsea, which at the time was our first trophy in five years. He also guided us to his second victory in the tournament in 2007, a 2-1 win against Arsenal in Cardiff, our fourth win overall in the league cup after wins in 1965, 1998, 2005 and this win in 2007. I always find it frustrating when pundits and supporters alike devalue this trophy. After all, there are usually only a maximum of four trophies up for grabs most season, so to write of your chances of any of these by fielding weekend sides seems pointless, unless of course you are Arsenal. Chelsea have never disrespected the league cup, especially under the guidance of Mourinho, who recognises the importance of winning this competition. Aside from winning the tournament itself, the effect it can have on the rest of your season if you can lift the trophy at Wembley in February can’t be underestimated. You only need to look at our 04/05 title-winning season to see that.
Changes are of course expected from our line up that defeated Fulham on Saturday, Mourinho already stating that Luiz, Mata, Essien and Azpilicueta will start on Tuesday. These four changes, plus the likely addition of another two show no disrespect to Swindon, with only Essien yet to feature this season. Clever management from the special one ensures that the likes of Mata and Azpilicueta will be highly motivated for this match to prove to the manager that they are worthy of a more regular starting place. Other possible changes may include Schwarzer or Hilario in place of Cech, and a rest for Eto’o after three matches on the bounce, replaced by either Ba or Torres.
Swindon come into this match of the back of a 3-2 home win over Bristol City after coming from 1-2 down. Ajose is a player to be watched after netting twice at the weekend. Swindon’s home form so far in league one has been impressive, winning three and drawing one of their four matches at home. They have also netted eleven times in these fixtures. Mourinho will no doubt have Chelsea motivated, and well aware that Swindon will be giving it their all.
While we didn’t create as many chances as we did against Hull or Everton, Saturday’s result provided three important points. We are only two points of the top of the table now, and Fulham rarely threatened us. Aside from Bent going clear early on they gave us nothing to worry about defensively. Again we were confident and patient in possession, but sometimes lacked the speed of movement of the football that we showed against Hull, and the cutting edge in the final third was not as evident as it has been. It is however clear to see the positives that Mourinho is bringing to the side, and the further we go into the season, the better it will be for all of us. The goals will come, and aside from a few individual errors we have looked solid as a unit at the back.
I’ll leave you with another positive thought; Jose Mourinho has not lost a league cup-tie in normal time. We won the trophy under him in 2005 and 2007, and only lost on penalties to Charlton Athletic in 2006. He didn’t take charge of any of our fixtures in the competition in 2008, having already left the club before we began our campaign with a 0-4 away win at Hull City. Let’s hope for a similar win away at Swindon, the first on the road to Wembley.
Sing up for the Chelsea.