Carabao Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg Preview
Carabao Cup Semi-Final First Leg Preview: Who Will Take The Initiative?
Just four teams remain standing in the Carabao Cup and fans can look forward to some exciting semi-finals between some of the biggest teams in English football and League One giant slayers, Burton Albion. Spurs and Chelsea have been paired in an all-London clash, while Burton will aim to see off the considerable threat posed by defending champions Man City in the other two-legged tie.
Expect Fireworks as Spurs and Chelsea Clash
These London sides are currently third and fourth in the Premier League table, and there is no love lost between their fans, so it should prove to be a feisty encounter. Spurs have not won a trophy in a decade and they are desperate for silverware as it might persuade the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld to stick around. Winning the Carabao Cup would be a big step in the right direction for Tottenham and it might even propel them to further success in other competitions.
But Chelsea are an excellent cup team, as they proved by beating Man Utd in last season's FA Cup final. The Blues have won the FA Cup four times in the past decade and finished runners-up once. They also won this tournament in 2015 and they have tasted success in the Champions League and Europa League, so this is a club with a winning mentality. In Eden Hazard, they have one of the world's best forwards, a man capable of tearing through any defence on the planet. They also have arguably the world's finest midfielder in N'Golo Kante, so they are not to be taken lightly.
Yet Tottenham will feel they have the better all-round team. There are clear weaknesses in the Chelsea starting XI, whereas Spurs are solid all over. Kane, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Eriksen are on fire at present, and the defence is strong too. The biggest issue with Mauricio Pochettino's men is their mentality, as they have frequently fallen short in big games over the last few years.
Eriksen and Hazard Likely to Feature
It remains to be seen how seriously Pochettino and opposite number Maurizio Sarri will take this two-legged semi-final clash. They both harbour aspirations of muscling their way into the title battle, while they both have European campaigns and the FA Cup to take into account, so they may rest a few key players after such a hectic festive period. But they have both paid a lot of respect to the Carabao Cup so far, and we should expect to see pretty strong line-ups from both clubs in the first leg at Wembley on Tuesday.
Tottenham started Son, Alli, Eriksen, Lucas Moura, Moussa Sissoko and Alderweireld in their 2-0 quarter-final victory over Arsenal, while Kane came off the bench in the second half. Son, Alli and Eriksen all featured in a 3-1 win away at West Ham in the previous round, suggesting that Pochettino is eager to end the club's trophy drought. It would therefore be unsurprising to see Eriksen and several other big guns feature in this semi-final against the Blues.
Chelsea also prevailed in an all-Premier League clash in the quarter-finals. They fielded a number of established stars, including Willian, Mateo Kovacic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Olivier Giroud, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesc Fabregas, but they needed the introduction of Hazard from the bench to settle it. The Belgian joined the fray with half an hour remaining and he broke Bournemouth hearts by firing in the winner in the 85th minute.
Fans are growing accustomed to seeing Hazard come off the bench to hand their team victory in this competition, as he pulled off an identical feat in a 2-1 win against Liverpool in the third round, dazzling with a wonder goal to ensure they progressed at the Reds' expense. Given the calibre of the opposition, Sarri may be tempted to start him in this semi-final, but if not he is likely to play some part in proceedings.
Resilient Brewers Face Ultimate Challenge
The minnows of Burton Albion will aim for one of the biggest giant killings in history when they clash with Man City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals. The Brewers are marooned in the bottom half of League One and recent trips have seen them play at Rochdale, Luton and Fleetwood. But they will travel to the Etihad on Wednesday to tangle with arguably the greatest team English football has ever seen. Pep Guardiola's men thrashed Arsenal in the final of this competition last season and then went on to win the Premier League in record-breaking fashion, so Burton will certainly have their work cut out.
The Cityzens have not been quite as impressive this term, suffering shock defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester of late, but they remain very much in the hunt for the quadruple and they have scored more goals than any other team in the Premier League. The wealth of attacking firepower Guardiola has at his disposal is positively terrifying: Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Riyard Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus are all exceptional talents and they can rip any team in the world apart.
Burton¿s band of underdogs will attempt to pull off a famous upset. It is a daunting prospect, but they can take heart from Wigan's exploits last season. Paul Cook's side were in League One at the time and they stunned Man City - who had not lost a game in domestic competition all season - by beating them 1-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Will Grigg was on fire, Guardiola was livid and neutrals toasted the magic of cup competitions. Burton will attempt to follow in their footsteps but will need a near miracle to progress against the beast that is Manchester City.
Be sure to take a look at our latest League Cup spreads, where you can choose from a range of options that will really heighten the excitement you experience watching the Carabao Cup Semi-Finals.