All eyes are on the Bridge tonight to see who will join Manchester City in next month's Carabao Cup final. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton assess the state of play ahead of the second leg...
At the halfway stage of this Carabao Cup semi-final, Chelsea trail Tottenham by the minimum. All to play for – not least the pride of London. At the same stage in 1998, a 1-2 deficit to Arsenal was swept away 3-1 at the Bridge.
Both were in the top four of the table at the time, and the comeback was fuelled by the passion of fans at the Bridge and, perhaps, some pre-match champagne provided for players by new coach Gianluca Vialli. Something similar will be required tonight and all of us can play our part.
Spurs’ last visit to SW6 was a mere four days ago, while the Blues were in Islington on Saturday and now face our fourth capital clash in seven matches across all competitions. It is also the 11th all-London semi-final in the history of this tournament.
The Carabao Cup’s other last-four tie pitted Lancashire against Staffordshire, and was over after the first leg as Manchester City thrashed League One Burton 9-0. They completed the job last night, the Brewers holding out for a 0-1 defeat.
Why could Chelsea not have been handed that less stressful route to the final, some might think, rather than squaring up to a deadly local rival? Yet the essence of sport is jeopardy, and as Blues fans know better than most, the more at stake, the greater the glory when you win.
Gonzalo Higuain’s addition to Maurizio Sarri’s playing staff came too late for his inclusion tonight, but the squad contains enough winners to make the difference this evening. All work together and we can reach yet another major final.
This is Chelsea’s 23rd major semi-final since the arrival of Roman Abramovich in 2003 and the 29th for the club since 1998.
— Key stat
Since 2003 Chelsea have only gone through two seasons without appearing in a semi-final (2010/11 and 2015/16), but this fine record of last-four appearances extends even further back.
The north Londoners’ slender lead from the first leg came courtesy of a Harry Kane penalty. Nevertheless, Chelsea were the better side after that setback, with five shots on target compared to the hosts’ three, but when goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga could not save Spurs, the woodwork did.
Chelsea will play two matches before Wednesday’s Premier League match at Bournemouth, while the Cherries will not have been in action for ten days.
Holders Chelsea’s defence of the FA Women’s Cup begins at Everton on Sunday 3 February. Emma Hayes’ side beat Arsenal in last season’s final, attended by a record 45,423 crowd at Wembley.
The Under-18s return to action a week on Saturday with a London derby at Arsenal, one place and three points ahead in the table. The Blues won the reverse fixture 3-1 back in September.
Remember that away goals do not carry any extra weight this evening and, with no extra-time either, in the event of a draw on aggregate after 90 minutes penalty-kicks will immediately be taken to determine a winner. Any shoot-out will be in the traditional ABAB format rather than the ABBA order used last season.
The Blues won the most recent penalty shoot-out against Norwich in the FA Cup last season having lost the previous three. Spurs have won their last two, including round three of this competition at home to Watford, losing all six between 1984 and 2013.
The yellow and red card system for coaching staff, aimed at improving touchline behavior, is on trial in all EFL competitions this season and applies this evening.
Acts of dissent, foul or abusive language to match officials or an opponent, ‘sarcastic clapping,’ kicking a water bottle or other equipment, encroaching into an opponent’s technical area, or conflict with supporters are examples of misdemeanours that could be punished. The yellow card and red cards concern all individuals in the dugout but it is the head coach who is cautioned or sent off.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system will also be in operation this evening. VAR Andre Marriner may only assist the referee in four potentially match-changing situations: goals, penalty decisions, straight red cards shown or not shown, and mistaken identity.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS EVENING…
Into the League Cup final for the eighth time in our history.