Cup football is on the agenda this evening as we welcome Brighton and Hove Albion to Stamford Bridge in the Carabao Cup third round. Our club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look ahead to tonight's game.
Chelsea and Brighton meet this evening in the League Cup for the first time in the 63-year-old competition’s history.
The feisty Seagulls will be out to steal the Londoners’ chips, as they did with an unprecedented league double last season. But when the two sides met in Philadelphia in July for the Premier League Summer Series, Mauricio Pochettino’s team won a see-saw game 4-3 after Jan Paul van Hecke’s second-half dismissal.
Chelsea, the capital’s first and most recent winners of this competition, will be targeting a 400th goal in our 219th match in this floodlit midweek trophy-chase. The first was scored by Johnny Brooks in a 7-1 victory at Millwall in October 1960.
Our only round two tie since 2016 a month ago against Wimbledon produced a win in the 100th League Cup match at the Bridge, leaving the Blues with a 64 per cent success rate on home soil.
Albion have exited at round four of this competition in each of the past three attempts, beating Arsenal 3-1 on their own patch at this stage last season. This is their opening bout of 2023/24.
As five-time winners of the League Cup and finalists in 2019 and 2022,Chelsea have progressed from 32 of our 47 third round ties (losing 15, most recently Man City at the Etihad last season).
Chelsea's past five games vs top-flight opposition in League Cup third round
Manchester City (a)
Aston Villa (h)
D 1-1 (won on pens)
Leicester City (a)
W 4-2 AET
D 0-0 (won on pens)
This competition is English football’s quickest route to silverware and a UEFA ticket: the winner of the final in February earns a place in the Europa Conference League play-off round.
Pochettino’s absentee headache was compounded by two new suspensions from Sunday’s defeat by Aston Villa. Malo Gusto’s red card removes the right-back from the next three matches across all competitions, while Nico Jackson will serve his single game ban in the league, and remains available tonight. The striker made two and scored one himself in the summer win against Brighton, racing behind Albion’s high line to convert with a fine finish.
Both will be sorely missed over coming matches but powerful frontman Armando Broja returned to action for the first time in 10 months at the weekend and will be involved again at some stage tonight. More problematically Reece James’s return to right-back looks a few weeks away.
Gusto seemed to have the measure of troublesome winger Kaoru Mitoma in that 4-3 pre-season win in the USA. The task may now fall to Axel Disasi, who switched to right-back on Sunday, meaning a further shake-up to a settled and efficient back four. That may have happened anyway, with 39-year-old Thiago Silva possibly handed a rest.
It’s unclear whether Poch, with the Fulham game delayed till Monday and no European midweeks, will play a near full-strength side or take a look at the likes of goalie Djordje Petrovic and 18-year-old Brazilian prodigy Deivid Washington, as well as Ian Maatsen, Cole Palmer, Lesley Ugochukwu and the returning Noni Madueke. Impressive young defenders Alfie Gilchrist and Josh Brooking took part in training yesterday too.
One thing he will drill into those involved tonight is the absolute requirement of goals: the Blues have not scored at the Bridge for two games and have taken the lead in just one of the five played there.
Opposition scout – Brighton
Roberto De Zerbi is likely to be without Julio Enciso and Jakub Moder this evening, though Pascal Gross and James Milner may have recovered in time. Lewis Dunk and Evan Ferguson returned at the weekend.
Faced with European midweeks for the first time the Italian has conceded he has to ‘manage in a different way’ and duly made nine changes to his starting line-up for Thursday’s 3-2 home loss to AEK Athens.
The coach was critical of his much-changed side’s ‘lucky’ 3-1 Amex Stadium win against Bournemouth, though, describing it as one of the worst of his tenure, and he may fancy this is one competition too many for the high-flying UEFA novices.
Bearing in mind Chelsea’s right-back problems, left winger Mitoma could be one of Brighton’s key men and he’s caused the Blues problems in the past. At the weekend as a half-time sub he was instrumental in the Seagulls’ comeback win, finding the net twice against the Cherries. As a result, the Sussex club are the Premier League’s leading marksmen.
Other potential starters are fast, skilful forward Joao Pedro, another who impressed in our summer friendly meeting, and ex-Barcelona number 10 Ansu Fati. Billy Gilmour and Tariq Lamptey could also return to their old stomping ground.
Chelsea vs Brighton – the cup history
Twenty per cent of our previous meetings with Brighton have come in cup competitions, though this will be the first in the League Cup. Of the four FA Cup matches (three ties), Chelsea have won the most recent two in 1967 and 1973, with Brighton claiming the first in 1933.
The round four victory in ’67 came at the Bridge after a 1-1 draw at Albion’s old Goldstone Ground. The Blues’ goalscorer that day, Bobby Tambling, continued in the same vein in a midweek replay at the Bridge, netting twice in the first half. After the break Tony Hateley claimed his first FA Cup goal in royal blue, before centre-half Allan Young capped his final appearance by completing the 4-0 rout.
Carabao Cup regulations
The draw for round four of the Carabao Cup will take place tonight after the televised tie between Newcastle and Manchester City.
Five substitutions (plus concussion replacements) are allowed in the competition, but there is no VAR system this evening.
A clear result is required on the night and, up to the second leg of the semi-finals and the final itself, that will be achieved without extra-time or replays. Instead, should the score be level after 90 minutes, the match will be decided by penalties.
The Blues lost out in our two most recent shoot-outs in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals at Wembley in 2022, both to Liverpool. Prior to that, we won one at home to Southampton in October 2021 in this competition.
Carabao Cup round dates
Round 4 w/c 30 Oct 2023
Quarter-final w/c 18 Dec 2023
Semi-final (1st leg) w/c 8 January 2024
Semi-final (2nd leg) w/c 21 January 2024
Carabao Cup final Sun 25 Feb 2024
• NB All fixtures except final may be moved for live TV.
Chelsea outranked Aston Villa on xG (expected goals, or chances to score) by 1.44 to 1.11, but that’s been the case in every single match this season, notably the other defeats involving Nottingham Forest (our 2.20 compared to their 0.68) and West Ham (2.57 vs 1.85). Remarkably, the only other top-flight team to have done so is Manchester City, the league’s second-top scorers.
As frustrating as three consecutive blanks has been, the positive is the team are still creating sufficient openings to win games when they find their range, which they must. Equally, the other end of the field is functioning brilliantly. Following last weekend’s games the Blues boast the Premier League’s third-meanest defence.
The added value of cup runs
In Chelsea’s last season without European football, 2016/17, the club not only found its feet after the sixth league game and second defeat before storming to win the title, but reached the FA Cup final that could have earned a second ‘double’. Involvement in floodlit midweeks, or FA Cup weekends when they arrive in the new year, can develop partnerships and allow lesser-used players to shine, feeding into the league campaign.
Our 2016/17 League Cup campaign ended in the fourth round, but it had already served up goals and performances that enhanced the confidence of Michy Batshuayi and Gary Cahill, among others. Both became key contributors: the Belgium striker would deliver the championship coup de grace at the Hawthorns the following May, while England centre-back emerged from John Terry’s shadow to skipper the Blues to glory.