A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s League Cup match at home to Bournemouth.
The midweek fixtures this time see a return to the English Football League Cup as Chelsea host Bournemouth at this quarter final stage. This cup may have the lowest prestige of all the domestic competitions open to Premier League teams, but we are now only 2 hurdles away from a final showdown at Wembley.
Bournemouth have never reached a semi final of any major cup competition in their history and were beaten by The Blues at this stage last season. However, Eddie Howe is building a mid table squad full of skill and quality who are more than capable of combining strong combative elements with some scintillating play.
Both managers are expected to mix up their starting line ups and use a combination of first team regulars as well as some fringe players. Sarri could well give tests to David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard. This would allow the likes of Andreas Christensen, Davide Zappacosta, Emerson Palmieri, Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Olivier Giroud the chance to start and make a claim for more regular call ups.
However, there is a chance that the Italian may go for a slightly stronger looking side. Despite proving himself to be a very good coach and able to mix it with an all conquering Juventus in his time in charge at Napoli, the honest, likeable manager has yet to win a major trophy. A win here and he will feel his side are within touching distance of rectifying that statistic.
It is unlikely that he will opt for the likes of Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi, both of whom may not even feature on the bench. Sarri will be hoping to outguess his counterpart and pick a side slightly stronger with the aim of outplaying and defeating Eddie Howe’s side.
The Cherries have lost 6 of their last 7 matches in all competitions and have failed to score in the last 2. With this in mind, Chelsea could be facing quite a strong looking forward line from Bournemouth. Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas, Josh King and Ryan Fraser are all likely to feature, especially if The Cherries play fairly solid at the back and hope to break through on the counter attack.
The Blues have beaten Bournemouth on each of their 3 previous League Cup ties and the expectation will be for that run to continue. Ideally, Chelsea can take a commanding lead relatively early on and not require an influx of first team players making an appearance from the substitute’s bench. Either way, another semi final encounter will be very welcome for Chelsea and especially for their still relatively new manager.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue