Pre-Match Briefing: Tottenham vs Chelsea

Part two of our January trilogy with Tottenham will decide which team contests next month’s Carabao Cup final. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare you for a night in north London…

Chelsea travel across town to Tottenham tonight for the concluding leg of this Carabao Cup semi-final and our 13th last-four derby tie in a major domestic competition.

The prize at stake – beyond London supremacy – is a place in the final on Sunday 27 February, and it is advantage Thomas Tuchel’s side following a comfortable 2-0 win a week ago. Avoiding defeat by two goals would secure our ninth appearance at the Wembley showpiece.

Omens are good. In League Cup history the only team ever to reach the final having lost the first leg of the semi-final by more than one goal is Aston Villa in February 1994. They did so by matching tier-two Tranmere’s 3-1 home win, then beating them 5-4 on penalties.

Two of the west Londoners’ next four games are against the N17 neighbours, coached by our 2016/17 league title-winner, Antonio Conte. He reached this stage as Chelsea boss in 2018 but was edged out by Arsenal.

Semi-final second-leg frustration for Conte at the Emirates in 2018

Tuchel’s men will be roared on by just shy of 6,000 expectant supporters, many of whom were present in September for a 3-0 statement victory. Since losing three on the spin 2018-19, the Blues are unbeaten in nine meetings across all competitions (excluding a penalty shoot-out) with the Cockerels, who have had one day fewer to recover.

Most League Cup wins
Man City8 times2021 most recent
Man United52017
Aston Villa51996
Nottingham Forest41990
Leicester City32000


Chelsea are aiming to extend our unbeaten run in all competitions against Tottenham to 10 matches since 2019 (excluding a penalty shoot-out).


Chelsea team news

Chelsea caught Tottenham napping in every way last Wednesday. Masterly last-minute tailoring by Thomas Tuchel, when some of the cloth was suddenly unavailable, bamboozled the visitors. The switch to a 4-4-2/4-3-3 helped outnumber them in midfield as well as clipping their wing-backs.

On top of that the Blues’ speed and accuracy of interplay was dazzling at times, and the determination not to be second best in any challenge was redolent of earlier in the season. The Bavarian might anticipate Spurs lining up with a three-man midfield this time, and could match that with a 3-5-2 formation.

A successful evening in SW6 last week

With Romelu Lukaku occupying two Lilywhites defenders, the Blues probed areas of uncertainty between wing- and centre-backs and at set-plays. Only five teams have allowed more shots from dead-ball situations in the Premier League than Spurs (the source of a fifth of the goals they concede), and League One Morecambe took the lead on Sunday with a close-range unmarked tap-in from a corner.

The sole disappointment is that the European champions mustered enough good chances at the Bridge to lay the tie to rest, but did not take them. Ahead of a crucial visit to Man City, the Blues need to replicate the attitude and application all over again to secure yet another Wembley final.

Another quick goal would settle nerves: Kai Havertz’s strike was our first against Spurs inside the opening five minutes since April 2017, when Willian netted in the FA Cup. Twelve of the German’s 14 goals in royal blue have come in a London stadium and he loves this competition, notching five times in three appearances.

Victory against Chesterfield in the FA Cup kept a few good runs ticking over. The five different goalscorers included Romelu Lukaku for his fourth in six games, Timo Werner with a third in four, and Hakim Ziyech for his second in seven.

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s signature finish inside the post was his first domestic strike since October. Like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andreas Christensen was making a successful return and notched his second Chelsea goal – a looped header, in contrast to his fierce volley against Malmo.

You wait years for one goal and then...

It is possible all five players withdrawn in the second half on Saturday – Christensen, Hudson-Odoi, Lukaku, Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic – will be heavily involved this evening. Kepa Arrizabalaga will return for Marcus Bettinelli in goal. 

Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante, last-minute Covid omissions from the first leg, and Cesar Azpilicueta, who limped out of it, are back in training. Whether they start is another matter as Chelsea must have one eye on Saturday’s early appointment at the Etihad, especially with five substitutes available tonight.

Thiago back in training on Tuesday evening

Chelsea's major semi-final derbies
1949/50Arsenal (FAC)White Hart LaneD 2-2
 Arsenal (FACr)White Hart LaneL 0-1
1951/52Arsenal (FAC)White Hart LaneD 1-1
 Arsenal (FACr)White Hart LaneL 0-3
1971/72Tottenham (LC 1l)Stamford BridgeW 3-2
 Tottenham (LC 2l)White Hart LaneD 2-2
1996/97Wimbledon (FAC)HighburyW 3-0
1997/98Arsenal (LC 1l)HighburyL 1-2
 Arsenal (LC 2l)Stamford BridgeW 3-1
2001/02Tottenham (LC 1l)Stamford BridgeW 2-1
 Tottenham (LC 2l)White Hart LaneL 1-5
2001/02Fulham (FAC)Villa ParkW 1-0
2008/09Arsenal (FAC)WembleyW 2-1
2011/12Tottenham (FAC)WembleyW 5-1
2016/17Tottenham (FAC)WembleyW 4-2
2017/18Arsenal (LC 1l)Stamford BridgeD 0-0
 Arsenal (LC 2l)EmiratesL 1-2
2018/19Tottenham (LC 1l)WembleyL 0-1
 Tottenham (LC 2l)Stamford BridgeW 2-1
 Won 4-2 on penalties  
2021/22Tottenham (LC 1l)Stamford BridgeW 2-0

Conte's choices

After the first leg Antonio Conte conceded, ‘They were much better than us, we have to clap the performance of Chelsea.’ No one will think he has given up on reaching the final, even if the manner of the Blues’ goals must have given him deja-vu of the unfortunate deflections in our last-four defeat at Arsenal in the 2018 version of this competition. The first goal could dictate the evening.

The starting XI selected against lower league Morecambe in the FA Cup showed eight changes from the one a week ago at the Bridge. Only wing-back Matt Doherty and centre-backs Japhet Tanganga and Ben Davies kept their places as the former Chelsea coach hoped to give his big guns the day off ahead of this game.

Two-thirds into the game, his side a goal down and lacking creativity (despite returns by Giovanni Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon), he had to call Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Oliver Skipp off the bench to change the game.

Kane making it safe against Morecambe

They replaced Dele Alli (playing as a centre-forward), Bryan Gil and the much-criticised Tanguy Ndombele – who a week ago came on at the break and added impetus to an otherwise flat team performance.

Arsenal’s Premier League visit on Sunday is bound to influence Conte’s thinking tonight. He will definitely be without Son Heung-min (involved in the most goals this season) and right-back Cristian Romero, and middle centre-back Eric Dier, a leader who is key to instigating their attacks, may not be risked. Likewise left wing-back Sergio Reguilon, rested at the weekend with fatigue and replaceable with fit-again Sessegnon.

If Dier is out, Conte must choose between Tanganga, whose mistake led to Chrlsea’s opener a week ago, or rarely-used Joe Rodon.

Carabao Cup regulations

The away goals rule does not apply in League Cup semi-finals. If the aggregate scores are level at the end of stoppage time in the second leg the tie will be decided in extra time or, if necessary, with penalty kicks.

The VAR system will be in operation tonight. Yellow cards only count in the competition they are received. In the Carabao Cup, two yellow cards result in a one-match suspension. The cut-off point is the quarter-finals, so no player can miss the final through cumulative yellows.

Seven substitutes can be named and five used in the normal course of events, with up to six allowed if extra time is needed. Two concussion replacements are also permitted.

We have history

This is the eighth time Chelsea and Tottenham have met in the League Cup, the most encounters with any opponent in the competition. It is also the fourth at the semi-final stage.

Two of the previous three second-leg games were at Spurs’ ground, ending in a draw (1971/72) and defeat (2001/02). The third and most recent concluded at Stamford Bridge in 2019 with a 2-1 Chelsea win, 2-2 on aggregate. The Blues won the shoot-out thanks to a Kepa save and Eric Dier’s miss.

"Forget the first result, we have to be spot on at Spurs" | Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel provides team news and his thoughts on Spurs ahead of Chelsea's Carabao Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg against Tottenham Hotspur.

Reds’ fates delayed

Tomorrow’s other semi-final at Anfield, Liverpool versus Arsenal, is the first leg of their tie. The original opener at Emirates, postponed from last week, will now follow next Thursday.

Homecoming for Houghton

Chelsea’s next FA Cup opponents, Plymouth, have former Blues youth captain Jordan Houghton, who departed in 2018, in their ranks. Steven Schumacher's Pilgrims, currently sixth in League One, beat Championship opponents for the second season running in Birmingham City. The round three match made history as the first in the competition to be officiated by a female referee, Rebecca Welch.

Jordan Houghton, once a blue and now a Pilgrim

Hornets host the Youth Cup

Chelsea Under-18s are back in FA Youth Cup action on Thursday 13 January. Watford, who won at Cardiff City to reach round four, host the young Blues for a 7pm kick-off at Vicarage Road. The two sides last met in this competition 11 years ago, a 2-1 win for the Londoners. Saturday’s star turn Lewis Hall, 17, played central midfield for Ed Brand’s side in last month’s 4-1 ousting of Orient.

This week’s midweek fixtures

Carabao Cup semi-finals

Tottenham v Chelsea 7.45pm (Sky Sports)

Liverpool v Arsenal (first leg) 7.45pm (Sky Sports)

Premier League

Southampton 4 Brentford 1

West Ham v Norwich 7.45pm

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