We host the claret-and-blue side from Birmingham for the second time this month but on this occasion, in a knockout Carabao Cup tie. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are hoping for a repeat outcome…
Premier League leaders Chelsea embark on the road to Wembley in the 62nd edition of the League Cup tonight, hosting Aston Villa, 2019/20 finalists in the competition. This year’s showpiece is booked for Sunday 27 February 2022 at the national stadium.
Villa have not managed a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge since March 1998, 23 games ago. Eleven days ago the two teams met in the league, the champions of Europe running out 3-0 winners with a brace from Romelu Lukaku.
Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa (H) | Premier League Highlights
A Romelu Lukaku double on his home debut helps seal an impressive 3-0 home win against Aston Villa
Both sets of personnel are likely to be very different this evening for round three of the Carabao Cup, even though it represents the fastest route to silverware (unless, like Thomas Tuchel’s Blues, you have already snapped up the Super Cup).
The Londoners have a formidable record at this stage of the competition, winning all of the past nine matches home or away, with an aggregate of 38 goals for, seven against. The Villans have already navigated one round, beating League Two Barrow 6-0 away, but they have not won at the Bridge since New Year’s Eve 2011.
The last 13 league and cup meetings between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge have produced 56 goals (42 of them for the hosts).
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
The League Cup is often considered an opportunity to reward the most promising youth players, though Chelsea’s only debutants in last season’s campaign were Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell at home to Barnsley, then Edouard Mendy at Tottenham.
The season before, though, Tino Anjorin, Marc Guehi, Reece James and Ian Maatsen all made their senior bow. Kai Havertz also announced his arrival in west London with an impressive hat-trick against the Tykes a year ago tomorrow.
This evening will be Tuchel’s first experience of the midweek competition in England, so his approach is hard to predict, especially with only three substitutes permitted and Manchester City’s visit to west London imminent.
Though Germany’s equivalent, the DFL-Ligapokal, was discontinued in 2007 before his coaching career had started, his PSG side twice contested its French translation, the Coupe de la Ligue. Falling to eventual finalists Guingamp in the 2018/19 quarter-finals spurred the Parisians to defeat the same opposition 9-0 only 10 days later in the league.
The following season, the Bavarian fielded a rotated but strong side – including Mbappe, Marquinhos, Verratti etc – to see off second-tier strugglers Le Mans, going on to beat Lyon after penalties in the last ever final.
He has similar strength in depth in the English capital. Claimants to a start tonight such as Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Saul and Hakim Ziyech all sat out the victory at Spurs.
Timo Werner, a substitute in north London, will also hope to see his named pinned on the board and, providing he is fit, now might be the moment to ease Christian Pulisic back into the fray. Ross Barkley will hope to have some minutes against his loan club last season.
Ahead of Saturday’s early showdown with Man City it might be a rest for N’Golo Kante, who returned in glorious fashion on Sunday. The half-time substitute netted his 12th goal in royal blue and second when playing Tottenham – his best return against any opponent, alongside the two Manchester clubs.
Edou Mendy, missing again this evening, will be away at the Africa Cup of Nations after the turn of the year, with Kepa Arrizabalaga set to figure in his absence. Since that will mean summer signing Marcus Bettinelli (on loan at Middlesbrough last season) being next in line, Tuchel may venture to see how he fares in a competitive setting.
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Villans return to the scene
Villa were losing finalists in the 2019/20 edition of this competition, but Dean Smith has usually made wholesale changes to his starting 11 in the early stages.
For Barrow last month he switched 10 players from the previous league game. Whether he feels the rotation can be so bold against the champions of Europe, 3-0 victors on the same pitch 10 days ago, remains to be seen. The Midlanders are at Old Trafford on Saturday and their coach may be tempted to rest a few first-choices.
Smith astutely switched from his regular 4-5-1 to five at the back for our recent Premier League meeting. That ended in an emphatic scoreline but the coach saw enough positives in the dense defending, high pressing and chances created to retain the system on Saturday against Everton.
The result was a reversal of the scoreline at the Bridge, with Jamaica winger Leon Bailey successfully deployed as a wing-back in a 10-minute spell that devastated Rafa Benitez’s Toffees. Smith’s other wing-back, Matty Cash, had opened the scoring with his first for the club.
Unfortunately for the Villans, the game brought a host of injuries casting doubt on Carabao Cup involvement for Bailey and Cash, as well as midfield mainstay John McGinn, who suffered concussion. Goalkeeper Emi Martinez and winger Emi Buendia, who missed our recent league encounter while quarantining, have both returned.
Another mark of the past few games has been the variety of set-plays designed by recently recruited specialist coach Austin MacPhee. Five of their 13 attempts on the Everton goal came from set-pieces.
Carabao Cup regulations
In the event of a draw at the end of normal time, Carabao Cup ties up to the semi-final stage will be decided by penalty kicks, without the use of extra time. (Kepa, remember, was brought on in the Super Cup as a penalty specialist, decisively saving two of Villarreal’s attempts.)
Substitutions have been scaled back from last year’s five to the usual three with seven options allowed on the bench (two fewer than in the Premier League). During extra time in semi-finals or the final an additional replacement can be made. Yellow cards do not carry over to any other competition and last season the VAR system was used only from the semi-finals stage.
For those teams who make it through, the draw for round four will take place at Potton Bowls Club, Bedfordshire, following the final whistle in the Manchester United-West Ham game. The semi-finals round has reverted to home and away double-headers in early January.
|1998/99||home||round 3||W 4-1|
|2006/07||home||round 4||W 4-0|
Two centre-backs, Thiago Silva and Toni Rudiger, found the net at the weekend as Chelsea completed an away ‘double' in north London. Added to Marcos Alonso’s against Palace, that made three Chelsea players among the eight defenders who have scored from a set-piece in this season’s top flight.
Two of the eight strikes recorded by defensive players from open play this campaign have also come from men in royal blue: Reece James and, more emphatically, goal of the month exponent Trevoh Chalobah. At the same stage last season three members of Chelsea’s backline had contributed four goals: James, Ben Chilwell, and Kurt Zouma (2).
Thiago Silva's dominant display against Tottenham! | Every Touch
Thiago Silva dominated against Tottenham, fending off two huge threats in Son and Kane. He was also extremely composed on the ball and scored the important opening goal - watch all of his best touches here...
Fixtures and fit-ins
The return of a second leg in the semi-finals of this competition potentially complicates any top-flight club’s diary, but especially Chelsea’s.
The Blues may already have to postpone one or two league games to compete in December’s FIFA Club World Cup, and the dates of the Carabao Cup legs – the middle of the first two weeks of January – straddle round three of the FA Cup.
For the Londoners, any last-four involvement in this competition would also come between two huge league games: Liverpool’s visit and a trip to Manchester City.
Meanwhile, two cities have announced their bid to host the tournament in three months’ time after Tokyo withdrew. Representatives of Cape Town, South Africa, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, reported they had held positive talks with FIFA bosses. The domestic champions of the host nation automatically qualify for the cup.
Highlights of today's game plus the full 90 minutes will be available to watch on this website and the 5th Stand app from 1am (UK time).
Carabao Cup round three results and fixtures (featuring Premier League clubs)
Brentford 7 Oldham 0
Burnley 4 Rochdale 1
Fulham 0 Leeds 0 (5-6 on pens)
Man City 6 Wycombe 1
Norwich 0 Liverpool 3
QPR 2 Everton 2 (8-7 pens)
Sheffield United 2 Southampton 2 (2-4 on pens)
Watford 1 Stoke 3
Brighton v Swansea
Arsenal v Wimbledon
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Man Utd v West Ham
Millwall v Leicester
Wolves v Tottenham