Chelsea will compete in the first leg of their 11th League Cup semifinal on Wednesday night against a Swansea side playing in their first. But while their histories vary greatly, on the pitch it promises to be a tightly matched encounter.
Both clubs’ histories took a dramatic turn 10 years ago. At Stamford Bridge, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took control of Chelsea and has spent a fortune turning them into one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Abramovich has also created uncertainty in the manager’s office, though, as he seeks not only dominance in results but also for the team to play in the attractive style he craves. Rafael Benitez is the latest man in the hot seat and the Spaniard will be all too aware that he can do his cause and that of his side this season no harm by delivering the Capital One Cup trophy.
“We want to win every game, we know it's a semifinal and we will try to be in the final,” Benitez said, according to Chelsea’s official website.
“We have a lot of respect for Swansea, they are a good team and they are doing well. It could be an interesting game for the fans.
“It's important to get to the final with my team, and my team now is Chelsea. I will try to do my best for my club, if we can win every trophy I will be very pleased.”
The fact that Swansea are where they are now—in a cup semifinal, sitting ninth in the Premier League and with an expectation that they can challenge Chelsea—can also be traced back a decade. It was in 2003 that Swansea narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League. Since then the club has been a model for others to follow of shrewd and intelligently planned ownership that has seen them rise dramatically through the English football pyramid.
Swansea drew with Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium earlier in the season and having also beaten and then drawn with Arsenal as well as securing a point against Manchester United to have shown that they can be a match for the Premier League’s elite.
With the exception of long-term injury victim Neil Taylor, Swansea have a full-strength squad from which to choose. Having started on the bench in the FA Cup draw with Arsenal on Sunday, Michu is likely to come back into the starting lineup.
John Terry is still sidelined, although he is set to make his return in an Under-21 match on Thursday. Petr Cech is also still unavailable, while John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses have headed off for African Cup of Nations duty.
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Bertrand
M: Lampard, Luiz
Marin, Oscar, Hazard
D: Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies
M: Britton, Ki
Hernandez, Michu, Routledge
Prediction: Having rested the likes of Michu and Pablo Hernandez at the weekend, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup looks set to field a strong side at Stamford Bridge. They could well provide plenty of problems for a Chelsea side that has been more consistent away from home under Benitez’s reign. With Benitez likely to make a few changes and Fernando Torres potentially returning for Demba Ba, the tie could still firmly be in the balance when it heads back to Wales in two weeks’ time.
Chelsea 1-1 Swansea
Where to watch: The Capital One Cup semifinal first leg will kick-off from Stamford Bridge at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.