League Cup Semi Final Preview – Spurs or Chelsea To Face City?
January 22, 2019
We are just two fixtures away from the League Cup final and whilst we know one team that will be making the trip down to Wembley, we do not know their opposition. Whoever it may be though, the neutrals will certainly be in for a treat.
Manchester City ran riot against Burton in their semi-final first leg, destroying the Brewers 9-0. This sort of result was always on the cards and despite some absurd comments claiming the score-line was ‘unsportsmanlike’, Pep Guardiola’s side got the job done without ever hitting second gear. Some fans and journalists raised the question of whether the reigning Premier League champions should have shown the League One club ‘more respect.’ Do they not know that a trophy is on the cards?
The other semi-final, however, saw anything but a demolition. Tottenham’s tight 1-0 victory over Chelsea means that there is everything to play for at Stamford Bridge and I’ve been provided with the difficult task of picking a winner.
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Burton vs Manchester City
What can Nigel Clough say to his players going into this fixture? His side experienced one of the biggest defeats in the tournament’s history and have to score nine goals against a team that haven’t conceded in four games. And that’s just to get to penalties. In reality, both sides should be treating this fixture as an opportunity for their young prospects to receive some game time.
Although Burton have very little to play for in the league, it would be naïve to lose a key player to injury in a game that is well and truly buried. Relegation looks unlikely for the Staffordshire club, but they will have to be wary for the remainder of the season. The Brewers exceeded all expectations by reaching the semi-final stage and their fans will be feeling unlucky that the fixtures occurred in the order that they did. They certainly have a goal in them, but to overcome a nine-goal deficient against the country’s strongest side is just unthinkable.
From City’s perspective, the game is actually an exciting prospect for their travelling fans. Given their title chase and the Champions League closely in the distance, Wednesday’s fixture provides Guardiola with the chance to see what some of his upcoming stars have to offer. The blue side of Manchester rarely get to witness any of their homegrown talents come through the ranks, due to their competitive matchday squad and of course, their close youth affiliation with Girona.
Phil Foden will surely get another chance to start, whilst the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Arijanet Muric will also build on more first-team experience. Since taking charge, Guardiola has implanted a specific style of play into the City side, with this philosophy influencing each youth team of the Citizens. Wednesday night is an opportunity for each player to impress their coach, who will be keen to see who stands out. Regardless of his team selection, the Spaniard will demand a solid performance.
Expect a similar system and formation to take place from City at Pirelli Stadium, with the scoreline likely to reflect another comfortable display from the in-form team.
Prediction: Burton 0-3 Manchester City
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur
A tale of two highly acclaimed managers, whose trophy cabinets still remain empty. Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat in the first leg all but summed up the recent performances under Maurizio Sarri – they had all the possession and intricate passing, but no killer edge in the final third.
The Italian’s resistance to operate with a natural no.9 has had fans frustrated, whose side are seriously struggling to find the back of the net. They mustered 58% of the ball at Wembley and stringed together 637 passes, but Hugo Lloris was rarely tested all game. There is certainly energy from the frontmen, but without a presence to work around up-top, the Blues fail to work men into the box and create clear-cut chances. Against Arsenal, Eden Hazard was supposed to be the lone striker but found himself dropping into his team’s own half to even have a sniff of the ball.
It was a lacklustre display from the Blues at the weekend, who now find themselves in the mix for a top-four finish. Sarri publicly ridiculed his player’s attitude after their 2-0 defeat, blaming their ‘characteristics’ and their lack of ‘fierce mentality.’ Not many could argue with the Italian, as they looked short of character and belief on the field when Arsenal pressed high and forced mistakes from Chelsea’s backline. Still, though, there are some tactical decisions from Sarri that remain inexcusable – both Hazard and N’Golo Kante continue to be played out of position.
Tottenham were not at their best in the first leg but do have an advantage courtesy of Harry Kane’s dubious penalty. They will, however, will be without the Englishman until March and with no Son Heung-min also, it looks to be a tough couple of months ahead for Pochettino. They just managed to get over the line at Fulham, with Dele Alli picking up a hamstring injury in the process. That’s three players who largely make up the majority of Tottenham’s goals and they look very limited going forward without their dynamic trio.
Fernando Llorente will resume service upfront, but there is now a lack of runners from deep to support the Spaniard in and around the box. Crossing from out wide, specifically through Kieran Trippier, may be the way to go for Spurs, who are still in the hunt for their first trophy since 2008. Their game-plan has been severely affected though, so it won’t be an easy task to reach the final. Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen will be tasked with the creative duties for the team, who will need to try find space in the pockets in front of both David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger.
If Chelsea set up with an attacking blueprint though, with Hazard supporting a frontman, I’d expect them to break down a depleted looking Spurs side. Sarri’s words were an attempt to rekindle the energetic style that we saw from them at the start of the season. The players need a big result and this is the perfect opportunity for the underperforming individuals to prove their critics wrong.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.