Do not adjust your sets, it’s Arsenal and Chelsea again, this time in the League Cup. But it’s only the first half of the semifinal today, with the proverbial second half to follow in a fortnight. That will complete this blue-red January trilogy.
Round one was a draw, with a point going to each. But only one team can make it into the final, against, most likely, Manchester City, who beat Bristol City 2-1 in their first leg yesterday on a last-gasp Aguero goal.
Chelsea have made it this far only twice in the previous decade, progressing past Liverpool in extra-time of the second leg (Ivanović!) on our way to winning it against Spurs in 2014-15, and failing hilariously against Swansea City two years prior in what is mostly remembered for Eden Hazard not actually kicking an overage ball-boy bent on disrupting the game.
What will this semifinal bring? We’re about to find out.
Date / Time: Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Martin Atkinson — no stranger to this tie or Chelsea games in general, this will be Atkinson’s 6th Chelsea-Arsenal derby, including last year’s 3-1 win at the Bridge for the Blues and the 2009 FA Cup semifinal, which Chelsea also won. In fact, Chelsea have yet to emerge anything but winners in this matchup when Atkinson has been in charge.
Forecast: Cool, calm.
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); ESPN2, ESPN Deportes (USA); none? (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); ESPN3 (USA)
Chelsea team news: Conte vs. Mourinho may be taking all the headlines, but that’s in part also due to Chelsea being just about completely healthy with all players available. Eden Hazard had suffered a slight knock last week, but is said to have recovered and should be ready to start.
With one exception, Conte has followed a strict rotation policy for domestic cup games since taking over Chelsea 18 months ago. But given the scheduling around this match, with FA Cup third round and third round replay games to contest for the backups, there’s a decent chance this game joins that one exception. Incidentally, that happened also against Arsenal, in last year’s FA Cup final. (Dun-dun-dun...)
Conte remains surprisingly unsuccessful against the Gunners, with last week’s 2-2 draw adding yet another non-win. Perhaps today will see him finally collect his second win in seven competitive matches against Wenger (who will be in the stands serving a touchline ban for his recent altercations with and slating of referees).
Arsenal team news: Wenger suspended, many in the squad injured, team on the slide, hilarious loss over the weekend, Alexis about to leave for Manchester City — just another CRISIS at Arsenal, though this time it might actually be for real.
But once that whistle blows, anything can happen, and Chelsea’s traditional psychological edge over the Gunners certainly seems non-existent these days, for whatever reason.
So, as Chelsea “pay great attention”, Arsenal will look to win for the first time in four games and just the fourth time in ten. They will be without all the players who were missing for last week’s league encounter, plus possibly Mustafi, Xhaka, and maybe even Alexis, who could be on his way to City by midday tomorrow.
View from the enemy: The Short Fuse
Previously: In light of Morata’s struggles of late at finding a finish and his recent quotes about watching and learning from old Drogba tapes, here’s Drogba for Chelsea vs. Arsenal. Listen up, Álvaro.