Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek recognised just how difficult it was for us to get the better of Derby last night, but having advanced the focus now is to challenge for the Carabao Cup.
Five goals were scored at Stamford Bridge and it was the last of those, netted by Fabregas, that proved the decider on an emotional evening at Stamford Bridge when Frank Lampard occupied the opposition dugout.
Fabregas’s goal was his first of the campaign, and it settled an entertaining tie against second-tier opposition who took us all the way.
‘I wasn’t surprised by how adventurous they were,’ the Spaniard said of Derby’s approach.
‘I follow the Championship and I have seen a couple of games, and also the coach alerted us how they play. They are very brave, they are young, they run, they are enthusiastic, and it’s fantastic to see this. Credit to Frank and Jody for what they are doing, it’s great to see these young players wanting to play.
‘The performance was difficult. It’s not easy when you play once a week to keep fit and always be ready. They gave us a fantastic game. But we are through and that’s the most important thing.’
Loftus-Cheek featured in a third consecutive game under Maurizio Sarri, and the midfielder also competed against a pair of players he knows well from our Academy, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, who are on loan at Pride Park.
‘I thought they did really well,’ Loftus-Cheek assessed. ‘Mason was unlucky with a few shots and Fik was unlucky with the own goal, but overall I thought they did really well and they can be proud of themselves.
‘Derby pressed quite well. It was difficult for us to play out. Credit to them, they were physical, but we just said at half-time we need to step it up because they were playing well, and we needed to be more aggressive and be braver to play out from the back. They gave us a really tough game.’
The draw for the last eight is a repeat of the same tie at the same stage a year ago, with Bournemouth visiting the Bridge shortly before Christmas.
We edged past the Cherries 2-1 on that occasion, and the goal will be to repeat that outcome and book a semi-final berth again. Fabregas, who won the League Cup with the Blues back in 2015, explained why the competition can be significant.
‘When I first started Arsene [Wenger] always gave young players a big chance in this competition, and that’s why you see a lot of young talent in it.
‘And then when I first came here, with Jose [Mourinho], the first target was to win the League Cup. If you win a trophy in February it gives you a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, and I agree. You have to take it seriously, and it’s a good opportunity for the whole squad to compete.’