If Chelsea is to advance to the Capitol One Cup Final, the Blues must overcome a two-goal deficit. Swansea City maintained an excellent game plan in their first leg controlling the midfield along with finishing when it counted. The Swans took the advantage off of a Michu finish along with a Danny Graham late cushion.
As Chelsea continue to struggle with inconsistent performances in their search for a Premier League crown, their future emphasis is on both the FA Cup and Capitol One Cup. Interim boss Rafa Benitez recently stated that “In terms of the league I don’t think we can do it.” Despite the Spaniard’s newly found focus on the domestic cup competitions, it may be quite unsettling for Chelsea fans to give up hopes on a Premier League crown with plenty of matches left in the coming months.
The Swans, however, come into their second leg with loads of confidence. As Michu continues to light up the scoresheet, the Blues defensive line of Garry Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole should be watched closely. Another possible bright spot for the Stamford Bridge is the pending John Terry’s pending return from injury.
Michael Laudrup’s squad must keep up the pressure on Chelsea to pin them back in their own end. The Swans recently beat Stoke City 3-1 at the weekend which may provide even more confidence to seek their first League Cup final in team history. Luckily, Laudrup’s side will now rely on Chico Flores for defensive duties on Juan Mata, Oscar and Frank Lampard as all aforementioned players are capable of winning games from brilliant strikes and crunching passes.
At the current moment, Chelsea lack a defensive presence in their midfield. With David Luiz out with injury and both Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel with Nigeria for the African Cup of Nations competition, Benitez may look to Frank Lampard to provide veteran insight and hopefully see his squad into the cup final.
This semi-final match will likely come down to a battle at midfield. Juan Mata should see more time in the attacking third, while Frank Lampard and Ramires control the defensive posture in the middle of the park. Leon Britton and Sung-Yueng Ki should see plenty of action in the center-midfield role for the Swans, while Pablo Hernandez and Wayne Routledge will hope to blaze past the Chelsea back line and supply both Graham and Michu with plenty of crosses.
Whom Chelsea will start with up front is still up in the air. As Benitez stated, “Fernando was doing a great job. Afterwards, Demba gave us something we didn’t have before.” The Senegalese international offers strength and a natural scoring touch, while Fernando Torres has the backing of his manager and fellow Spaniard, Benitez.
Regardless of the outcome, the Swans versus the Blues is quite an intriguing matchup. Both Benitez’s and Laudrup’s squads love to attack. The Liberty Stadium could quite possibly be in store for a few real cracking finishes, and who knows–maybe even penalties to decide this close affair.
Probable Lineups :
Rangel, Monk, Williams, Davies
Hernandez, De Guzman, Routledge
Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Cole
Oscar, Mata, Hazard
Key Stats :
- Swansea have lost just one of their last nine games, a 1-0 defeat against Arsenal in the FA Cup third-round replay.
- The Welsh club haven’t been beaten at home since December 8, and have lost just twice at the Liberty Stadium all season, while only the top three and Arsenal have scored more goals at home than Swansea (22).
- Michael Laudrup’s side hold this season’s Premier League record for the most passes leading to a goal, with 28 passes preceding Michu’s strike against Norwich earlier this season.
- Swansea are yet to lose a game in which they have scored first, winning 13 out of the 15 games in which they’ve opened the scoring this season.
- Swansea are 90 minutes away from a first ever appearance in a major cup final (having lost in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1926 and 1964), and could become the first Welsh winners of the league cup.
- Chelsea may have struggled at home under Rafa Benitez, but they’ve won each of their last six away games in all competitions and conceded just 11 times on their travels across the entire season.
- Only Derby County’s Michael Jacobs (five) has more assists than Juan Mata in this season’s Capital One Cup, while Swansea’s Danny Graham (pictured) is the joint-second highest scorer.
- Chelsea have drawn 1-1 with Swansea on their last two visits to south Wales, and haven’t won away to the Welsh club since 1983.
- The Blues have won more penalties than any other side this year (eight), and have converted seven.
- The reigning European champions have won 50 per cent of the league matches in which they have trailed this season, but never overturned more than a one goal deficit.
Swansea are a tough side to play at The Liberty, but Chelsea are rock solid on the road under Rafa Benitez. It’s going to be a tough ask to get to Wembley at the expense of Swansea, but it can be done. 3-0 to Chelsea.