No repeat disgrace from Chelsea
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho set himself up for a fall somewhat ahead of the weekend’s FA Cup tie against Bradford City by declaring that defeat would be a disgrace. Lo and behold, Bradford not only won at Stamford Bridge but came back from 2-0 to do so. Even with nine changes to their previous starting XI in the league, The Blues still finished up with Cesc Fabregas, Willian and Eden Hazard on the pitch, and Mourinho made clear at full time that such a display was inexcusable. Three days later, and a full-strength Chelsea side will line up against Liverpool with aim to reach the Final. The squad will have seen their manager’s fury on Monday morning, and so even if they are eliminated from this cup tonight, it certainly won’t be for a lack of effort.
Daniel Sturridge to be risked
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has been missing for his club since August following a series of injuries, but the weekend saw the England hitman finally return to first-team training and he has travelled with the squad to London for tonight. The obvious question marks over his match sharpness are outweighed by just how much The Reds have missed Sturridge at times this season, and with the team having to at least score tonight to progress (away goals count after extra time) it would be no surprise if Sturridge is thrown on by Brendan Rodgers should they still need a goal late on.
Plenty of Gerrard shots
It has been noted by Liverpool fans that the 2015 FA Cup Final not only falls on Steven Gerrard’s 35th birthday but would also be the final match of his career with the club should they reach it. As perfect a send-off as that would be, the weekend’s home draw with Bolton Wanderers served a reminder that there’s still some way for them to go in that competition and the supporters should perhaps be more focused elsewhere. The Capital One Cup Final arrives much sooner than May but is silverware nonetheless and with just one match away from Wembley you can be sure that Gerrard will be busting a gut tonight to get there. There’ll be no shortage of long-range efforts from the Liverpool captain this evening, who’ll be thinking of the headlines and he tries to carry his team through one more time.
Mourinho not interested in a wealth of goals
Despite their history together at Chelsea, the opposing managers in tonight’s match have very different approaches to winning matches. If Brendan Rodgers had his way, this evening’s tussle at Stamford Bridge would be an end-to-end affair with plenty of opportunities for Liverpool to hit Chelsea on the break, but unfortunately for him the 1-1 Anfield draw in the first leg plays right into Jose Mourinho’s hands. The Portuguese chief is no stranger to setting up defensively in Semi Finals (Inter at Barcelona comes to mind) and he and the Chelsea players will have no problem reverting to such a system, even if his squad has evolved from that since the summer. Expect to see Chelsea inviting Liverpool to try and break them down in what will be a tight affair (unless the visitors do manage a goal, of course).
A key moment in Chelsea’s season
It’s been just a couple of months since talk of Chelsea going unbeaten in the league this season and the potential for the club to even achieve an unprecedented quadruple. With the FA Cup Fourth Round, tonight’s Capital One Cup Semi Final second leg and a Premier League match with Manchester City in the space of a week, these three matches could prove to be a pivotal swing in the club’s fortunes. Having already failed their first test and been eliminated from the FA Cup, it’s crucial that Chelsea progress tonight or else go into Saturday evening’s match against City on the ropes and with a real risk of losing their grip on the Premier League title. Such an idea was unthinkable just weeks ago, and how they respond to that would be very interesting.