Wind-up merchant Costa has mastered his art
Not content with being one of the best goalscorers in English football, Diego Costa is also revealing himself to be an object of frustration to opposing players in another sense. The Brazil-born Spanish international has a wonderful knack of irritating those he is up against while avoiding any real serious trouble himself – think Robbie Savage in his pomp – and we saw the peak of these powers last night as he single-handedly riled Liverpool across the night. Jose Mourinho has defended his striker’s stamps, ignored by the referee, on Emre Can and Martin Skrtel as accidental but it infuriated the Liverpool players and their manager nonetheless. Skrtel and Steven Gerrard were both booked for incidents with Costa, who himself didn’t receive a caution until his tussle with the latter in extra time. The combination of power and skill with his intimidation and aggression makes for the perfect centre forward, and all the time Costa keeps escaping punishment for his antics too there’s no question that he is worth every penny that Chelsea paid and more.
Balotelli an isolated figure at Liverpool
The enigma that is Mario Balotelli has come to symbolise Liverpool’s lackluster summer recruitment, thanks to his goal-shy form, and some sections of the Anfield faithful have long lost hope on the player. It’s seemed at times that the Italian’s sole ally at the club has been manager Brendan Rodgers, although even that seems to be a relationship wearing thin after last night. Coming on after 70 minutes last night, Balotelli proceeded to spend his pitch time blasting shots high into the stands and attempting speculative efforts when there were other passing options available. Rodgers has tried to motivate the player through the press but even he must be losing patience, and judging by the indifferent reactions to wasted chances by Balotelli’s teammates, it seems they have given up on him too. Mario has always seemed like a bit of a lone wolf, but even he must be feeling a little isolated at the club by now.
Mourinho’s sensitivity is unconvincing
Jose Mourinho’s comments to the press are always likely to have some ulterior motive, but last night’s post-match words regarding an unnamed pundit were very bizarre. Defending the antics of Diego Costa, the Chelsea manager believes there is a campaign being led against the striker by the mystery figure, and the fact that nobody has been able to work out who is referring to speaks volumes about the absurdity of his words. The idea that there is a conspiracy against the oil-rich Chelsea and its players on any level is ridiculous, and for someone who so clearly enjoys using the press to suddenly take umbrage with one of its members is embarrassing, and not even an effective diversionary tactic.
Ivanovic is Liverpool’s worst enemy
Back in 2009, Branislav Ivanovic was the unlikely hero for Chelsea with two headers at Anfield, his first goals for the club, as The Blues took a commanding lead in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final against Liverpool. Six years later, and the Serbian defender was there to sting The Reds again, with his extra time header putting Chelsea through to the Capital One Cup final. Martin Skrtel, Lucas and Steven Gerrard remain from that Champions League tie and they would have been especially frustrated that the full back was not picked up at the set piece, having already found out his threat in the air the hard way some time ago. Liverpool have to travel to Stamford Bridge again in May, when both sides are still likely to be chasing their respective league targets, and it would not be a big surprise if Ivanovic would be the man to ruin the Merseysiders’ ambitions once again.
We have found our winner
Mourinho’s wild celebrations with his coaching staff at the final whistle indicate that the Capital One Cup is a competition he is taking very seriously (although cynics will point to this being due to the recent FA Cup elimination), and if that is the case then we cannot see past Chelsea winning the Final at Wembley next month. A near full-strength Chelsea team was fielded last night with perhaps Kurt Zouma the only contentious pick, although his performance against Raheem Sterling in particular justified his selection, and his team will have nothing to fear going into a match against Tottenham Hotspur or Sheffield United. The League Cup was Mourinho’s first trophy as Chelsea manager, and so it would seem fitting to be his first silverware of his second spell in charge at the club. Spurs of course beat Chelsea heavily at White Hart Lane recently, but it was very much an unusual result and we’re not expecting lightning to strike twice.