It's that time again folks, time to start winning hardware. Chelsea's trek for a quad begins Sunday at Wembley -- a place quickly becoming a temporary resident for the Blues -- in the Carling Cup final. Fellow Londoners Tottenham will be attempting to deny us a third League Cup in four years (good luck).
Funny man Avram will be out to set the world ablaze with TOTAL football. Eh, not so much. But the Chelsea manager will be looking to make a real mark since taking over for The Special One (It's fantastic). Grabbing the season's first piece of silverware will no doubt set the tone for the rest of the campaign in which we have a chance to claim four trophies (we were in the same situation last year, too, though).
Spurs, led by Just For Men spokesman Juande Ramos, are seeking their first hardware since the 1999 League Cup final, where they defeated Leicester City. Tott'nam has certainly galvanized under Ramos, with Robbie Keeeeeeeane and Count Berbatov leading the line. Fruit dish Jermain Jenas has also sprung to life in the middle of the park. At the back, Alan Hutton and Jonathan Woodgate have joined Ledley "6-8 Weeks" King and Michael Dawson to form one of the most injury prone defenses in the league.
Chelsea aim to be the first club to retain the League Cup since Nottinham Forest in 1990. Squad selection will certainly be a chore for Grant, who has his choice from a full squad of 25. A 4-3-1-2 would be wonderful to see -- more for the Drogba-Anelka combination at the top than anything else. Though the two have played only one professional match together, fans are ready to see the two working off each other. I'm ready too, but feel Grant will stick with his trusted -- and so far dull -- strategy. Expect some variation of a 4-3-3 with Drogba at the head flanked by SWP (hopefully) and Joey Cole. As has been well-documented, Wayne Bridge supposedly has threatened to leave the club if he does not start ahead of Cashley at Wembley. Considering he should start, I don't think there's much to debate here. Cashley ain't bout it.
Lampard and Terry
Stories have circulated all week regarding whether or not Chelsea's captain and vice-captain would start Sunday. We still don't know. For me, Alex has been superb thus far this season and deserves to start alongside Carvalho; it's really that simple. The whole you have to start your captain when he's fit argument is nonsense (sorry Desailly). Lampard's case is a little more debatable for me. I favor Ballack for his versatility, but Lampard is more of a goal threat from open play. I suspect Grant will indeed field Ballack, but we may see both -- though that my friends is a bad idea.
The Ramos factor
Spurs' bossanova knows a wee bit about cup competitions. During his tenure at Sevilla, he hoisted the UEFA Cup in back-to-back seasons and the Copa del Rey. When United defeated Totts in the FA Cup, it represented Ramos' first cup elimination in 50 matches.
In 119 previous meetings with Tottenham, Chelsea has 51 wins. Spurs have 41, with 27 draws. Tottenham has won only one of 16 meetings with the Blues. In league cup clashes, Chelsea has three wins to Spurs' two with a pair of draws. Tottenham has won the competition three times (1971, '73, '99), while Chelsea is a four-time winner (1965, '98, '05, '07).
Road To Wembley (Video):
Sidenote: As much as I despise Arsenal, my thoughts are with Eduardo. Hope the lad can recover and see out what is a hugely promising career.