We are up Wembley Way again later today – and the start of a two-game decider to see which of these London sides goes back there next month for a cup final. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look a look at this first leg…
This is the 58th campaign of the Football League Cup and, as 92 clubs have been whittled down to four, the ties expand from a single match to two legs. For Chelsea the first of those is at a stadium with plenty of memories – most happy, some not so much. For Tottenham it is still, unexpectedly, home from home.
Since the new Wembley opened in 1997, the Blues have met Spurs there six times. The Lilywhites won the 2017/08 League Cup final, as well as this season’s Premier League encounter (1-3) but west London has prevailed in the other four: the FA Cup semi-final in 2011/12 (5-1), 2014/15 League Cup final (2-0), 2016/17 FA Cup semi-final (4-2), and the first-ever Premier League clash staged there last season (2-1).
This is Chelsea’s 24th cup semi-final appearance since Roman Abramovich became owner, with the possibility of reaching the final for the sixth time in the past eight attempts.
— Key stat
Chelsea have only had two seasons since 2003 without a semi-final, but the record of last-four appearances extends further back.
While the Blues are aiming to go one better than last season in this competition, when Arsenal edged into the final 2-1, this is the Lilywhites’ first appearances at this stage of the competition since 2015. Then they saw off Sheffield United, then in League One, over two legs, only to lose 2-0 in the final – to Chelsea.
Derby matches are rightly cherished for the passions they provoke amongst supporters, but occasionally this manifests itself in the lowest forms of hatred.
Chelsea’s position, and that of the overwhelming majority of those who follow the club, is that any racist, antisemitic or homophobic language in the context of a game should not be tolerated.
And as Maurizio Sarri reminded us yesterday, it would be much more effective for 5,000 Chelsea voices to sing loud and long in support of our team rather than against theirs.
Next league visitors Newcastle have a clear midweek. Their surprise FA Cup draw at home to mid-table Championship side Blackburn added a replay at Ewood Park next Tuesday to their schedule.
Fit-again Chelsea Women defender Jade Bailey has joined Reading on loan, but is ineligible to face her parent club in the Continental Tyres League Cup clash between the two teams at Kingsmeadow tomorrow.
Bradley Collins, on loan at League One Burton Albion, will face Man City in the other semi-final first leg tomorrow. The Academy graduate is first-choice ’keeper for the Brewers and kept a clean sheet when they saw off Middlesbrough in the quarter-finals.
Changes to the Carabao Cup could produce a different dynamic in the last four this season, especially the removal of the ‘away goals rule’ where, in the event of an aggregate draw, the team scoring most goals on their opponents’ ground wins. It makes hosting the second leg less of a disadvantage in that respect, now that extra-time has also been scrapped, except for the final.
Now, in the event of a draw after 90 minutes of the second leg, penalty kicks will immediately be taken to determine a winner.
The yellow and red card card system for coaching staff aimed at improving touchline behaviour 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 Chris Kavanagh 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 WEEKEND…
On course for the final going into the decider at the Bridge.