Chelsea will be hoping that Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley can provide the same catalyst for success as victory in the same League Cup competition a decade ago. Going into the final against Liverpool in 2005, José Mourinho was still in his first season in England and in charge of a club that had not won the league title in 50 years and was without a trophy of any kind in five years. But an extra time victory proved the precursor to Chelsea collecting five trophies in Mourinho’s three-year first spell at Stamford Bridge.
Now in his second year back at Stamford Bridge, and after a barren season last time around, Mourinho is gunning for a similar haul of silverware. Chelsea go into Sunday’s final five points clear at the top of the Premier League and with a second leg in the last 16 of the Champions League yet to come. Still, Mourinho insists that the League Cup carries enough importance for him to put his entire focus on coming away with the trophy.
"Lots of teams have followed us since 2004, 05, 06, 07, when we took the League Cup as a real competition, as a real challenge,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “And we were trying to reach finals and we were trying to win. The League Cup is a big competition.
“I don’t think about consequences. I don’t think because you win the cup final that you win the league. I don’t think because you lose the cup final you lose the league. I don’t see connections. If we go home with a cup and a medal then perfect but on Monday we have to train, Wednesday we have to play, no time to think about consequences.”
It will be a final that Chelsea have to negotiate, though, without Nemanja Matic. Much to Mourinho’s disdain, the Serbian midfielder was handed a two-match suspension after being sent off for retaliating to an ugly challenge from Burnley’s Ashley Barnes in a 1-1 draw last weekend. The influence Matic in shielding the defense is borne out by statistics that show Chelsea have lost two of the three matches they have played without him this season. Adding to Mourinho’s concern, Matic’s possible replacement, John Mikel Obi, is ruled out through injury.
Matic’s absence will doubtless provide a boost to Chelsea’s opponents. Tottenham don’t have many positives to take from meetings with Chelsea over the past two decades, but two will offer particular encouragement ahead of the final. In the final of the same competition seven years ago, Jonathan Woodgate’s header in extra time gave Spurs a 2-1 victory over Chelsea to secure what remains their last major trophy.
But of the Tottenham squad that day only defender Younes Kaboul has a chance of being involved at Wembley this weekend, meaning a far more recent experience is likely to be the source of belief that the 2008 triumph can be repeated. In one of the most remarkable results of this Premier League season, Spurs came from a goal down at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day to beat Chelsea 5-3. But midfielder Christian Eriksen insists that win offers little indication of how events will unfold on Sunday.
“It will be a completely different game,” he said, reports Tottenham’s official website. “It’s a cup final, there will be different nerves from everyone and it’ll be an intense game. I’m looking forward to it and anything could happen. I’m sure Chelsea will want their revenge but we’re ready for that. There’s no doubt they will remember New Year’s Day but they are a really strong team and there have been a few games since then. We need to compete again, be even more intense and show even more will to win.”
Tottenham certainly won’t be coming into the match in ideal shape. Since a 2-1 win over Arsenal earlier this month, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have gone four matches without a win. Two of those came in the Europa League, where they crashed out to Fiorentina at the Round of 32 after a 2-0 loss on Thursday evening. Still, Pochettino is likely to make a few changes to the lineup from Florence, with Harry Kane, scorer of two goals against Chelsea last time out, among those set to return.
Prediction: Things looked to be really coming together for Tottenham under Pochettino when beating Chelsea and Arsenal. But the fact remains that his squad is short of the required quality in certain areas, particularly full-back. Chelsea will certainly look to exploit that weakness, although they will have to cope better with the energy of Spurs’ young midfield than they did on New Year’s Day. But Chelsea have proven to be good at bouncing back from disappointments under Mourinho and, even without Matic, they look a good bet to pick up the trophy after a hard-fought win.
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EST
TV channel: beIN Sports
Live stream: beIN Sports Connect