Chelsea are set to field a much-changed lineup when they take on Bolton Wanderers in the third round of Capital One Cup on Wednesday. Jose Mourinho has fielded a largely unchanged side through the first month of the season as Chelsea have raced out to a three point lead atop the Premier League. After beginning the campaign with four straight victories, Chelsea dropped points for the first time on Sunday when former Stamford Bridge great Frank Lampard struck a late equalizer for champions Manchester City. Just three days removed from such an intense encounter and with a busy run of fixtures upcoming in the Premier League and Champions League, there is little surprise that changes are planned for the visit of Championship strugglers Bolton.
“We haven’t finalized the squad for tomorrow yet,” assistant first-team coach Steve Holland said, reports Chelsea’s official website. “We have looked at the players following the game against Manchester City and it is an opportunity to rotate, we will do that for sure, but in terms of who is playing and who isn’t, that is unclear. For the first weeks of the season we have had one game a week and the international break. Now the two games-a-week cycle kicks in and it is important you have a pool of players who are ready to handle that schedule.”
The one player definitely unavailable is midfielder Ramires, who suffered a problem with his abductor muscle in the draw with Manchester City. The clash at the Etihad saw Mourinho continue his strategy away from home against the big Premier League teams of primarily looking to frustrate the opposition. The approach led City manager Manuel Pellegrini to deride Chelsea as playing like a “small team,” but Holland has hit back at the allegation.
“Chelsea have scored 16 goals in five League matches this season, where without being petty, City have scored eight so we have twice as many,” he said, according to London Evening Standard. “Jose has always been very clever tactically against the bigger clubs. Last season he proved that and I’m sure he will continue down that line.”
Having failed to garner a trophy in his first year back at the club, Mourinho will doubtless be keen to get the first silverware of the English season on the board by triumphing in the League Cup, just as he did in his first spell in charge. In last season’s Capital One Cup, Chelsea came through ties with Swindon Town and Arsenal, before surprisingly exiting at the hands of Sunderland. It was a match that proved a turning point in prompting Mourinho to go back to basics -- an approach that led to the concession of just two goals in Chelsea’s next 11 matches. Mourinho will surely love the clash with Bolton to mark the start of a similar run, with his side having kept just one clean sheet in six matches thus far this term.
Against a Bolton side that have failed to score in three of their last four matches, Chelsea will fancy their chances of improving their defensive record. After a mid-table finish in the Championship last season, Dougie Freedman’s side have won just one of eight league matches so far this campaign to leave them above the relegation zone on just goal difference.
Prediction: That Chelsea have two quality players for almost every position means that they can rotate heavily and still field a side that would be too strong for a large number of Premier League teams, never mind lower-league opposition. And many of those who could come into the team will be desperate to make a positive impression, including Petr Čech in goal, Loïc Rémy up front and Filipe Luís in defense. They should certainly have too much for a struggling Bolton team.
Chelsea 2-0 Bolton
Kickoff time: 2.45 p.m. ET
Live stream: BeIN Sports Connect