League Cup Semi Final Preview
January 7, 2019
The significance of the League Cup, or Carabao Cup for that matter, has often been downplayed over recent years. It is not often visualised in the same light as the FA Cup, but the competition still grants fans with an opportunity for a special day out at Wembley.
As we enter the semi-final stages of the tournament, the iconic stadium is now on the horizon for Burton Albion, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. So, who will be making the trip down to Northwest London for the final at the end of February? We have taken a look at each side’s chances.
Tottenham vs Chelsea
Undoubtedly the biggest clash out of the two fixtures, expect fireworks to fly when these two sides meet. The London rivalry between the two teams has certainly brought out the feistiness between the players in recent meetings, with these grudges set to rekindle on Tuesday the 8th of January (first leg).
Heading into the fixture, it will be Mauricio Pochettino’s side that will step onto the field as favourites. Currently sitting third in the Premier League table, Tottenham have defied all the odds this season, to which they are now mounting a title charge. Instead of sulking about a lack of summer signings, the Argentinian manager has built a closer squad harmony and has looked to improve existing players at the club. The likes of Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks look like new signings themselves, which is a testament to Pochettino’s coaching abilities.
Last season’s key men have also continued to impress, with Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Son Hueng-min all looking lethal in front of goal. In a system that pays heavy emphasis on their attacking stars, Spurs have repaid their manager’s freedom in clinical fashion, scoring 22 goals in their last 5 games. It was this explosive firepower going forward that rattled Chelsea when the two last faced back in November, as despite conceding three on the day, it could have been so much more.
Maurizio Sarri will be wary of his opponent’s offensive capabilities and will not want to be out of the tie after the first leg. The Italian, though, will unlikely change his side’s system. Since the hammering at Wembley, Sarri’s side have been deployed with a stronger defensive resilience, but it has impacted their play going forward. With Eden Hazard acting as the team’s main striker, goals have been hard to come by and the Blues will need a stronger focal point on Tuesday night.
Alvaro Morata scored twice against Nottingham Forest, so the Spaniard will be disappointed if he finds himself on the bench against Tottenham. As a more natural forward in comparison to Hazard, Morata is able to hold the ball up more effectively than his teammate, a factor that will be key against the physical defenders of Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez. Subsequently, Hazard should then find freedom out wide, specifically as Keiran Trippier loves a charge forward.
It is these specific changes that will decide the result on Tuesday, with many Chelsea fans demanding their manager to set up with a more positive outlook on the game. However, I expect Tottenham to have too much in their locker, for the first leg at least.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-0 Chelsea
Manchester City vs Burton Albion
Domestic cups often provide the opportunity for a giant killing to take place, and this is exactly what Burton Albion will need if they are to overcome the reigning Premier League champions. Nigel Clough has already upset the odds by reaching the semi-finals altogether, but the Brewers are now dreaming of their first trip down to the new Wembley, in a cup final fixture.
They will, however, need a defensive master-class to remain in the tie after their trip to the Etihad. Manchester City rotated heavily against Rotherham United at the weekend, but still put seven goals past the South Yorkshire club. Pep Guardiola certainly possesses a squad that boasts quality in depth and no matter what side is selected on Wednesday night, anything short of a comfortable win for the Sky Blues will be deemed a massive upset.
City’s victory over Liverpool has certainly injected an uplifting spirit back to the blue side of Manchester, after they were experiencing a dip in form. The League Cup may not be on the top of Guardiola’s priority list, but it still provides the Spaniard with a chance to add another trophy, to his long list of achievements as a footballing manager.
Burton will certainly operate with three central midfielders, with a glimpse hope of hurting City on the counter-attack. Liam Boyce will need to capitalise on any sort of chance that may fall his way, but these may be few and far between. Everybody loves a cup day upset, but this should be the end of the road for Burton’s Wembley dream.
Prediction: City 4-0 Burton
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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.