Responding well to adversity and maintaining high standards defensively will be the key to the Blues picking up a positive result tonight against Tottenham, according to Maurizio Sarri.
The boss leads his side out in a semi-final at the first available opportunity since arriving in the summer, with Tottenham our opponents and Wembley the location for the first leg of our last-four Carabao Cup tie.
In the Premier League meeting between the sides in November, we produced our worst performance of the campaign to date. Sarri believes it was immediately apparent what went wrong that day, and he does not think the effects of that loss will hamper his players tonight.
‘The result was our fault,’ the boss said. ‘Of course they [Tottenham] are a great team, very dangerous, but we could have done better, especially in the first 20 minutes when we were out of the match mentally.
‘I saw my players in the dressing room after the match. They were destroyed. They needed only to realise why the match was so bad. It was very easy. The video of the first 15 minutes was clear. There was a big difference in mentality, aggressiveness, determination. It was clear for me and also the players.
‘That match was really strange. It was after the international break, and probably we were not able to arrive to the match with the right mentality and focus. It can happen. Now we need to play another match.
‘The level of determination now is good,’ continued Sarri. ‘But we still have to solve some problems.
‘Sometimes during matches we have not had the right reaction to difficulties and negative situations. In the last match [against Nottingham Forest] we were not able to have the right reaction to a positive situation! After our second goal we conceded four shots on goal in two minutes. We need to learn we cannot lower our application in the defensive phase.’
We have reached this stage of the Carabao Cup after getting the better of Liverpool, Derby County and Bournemouth, each by a single-goal margin. Sarri pointed out that if we are to win the trophy this year, we will have been beaten the very best.
‘It is very difficult. The level of the opponent is very high. We have had to play against Liverpool. Now we have to play against Tottenham, and in an eventual final it would probably be against Manchester City.
‘It’s like playing in the Champions League, but in the League Cup.’