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Arsenal vs. Chelsea, League Cup semifinal, 2nd leg: Preview, team news, how to watch

Wembley beckons after a scoreless first leg.

Chelsea v Arsenal - Carabao Cup Semi-Final: First Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Chelsea are unbeaten in 12 straight games in all competitions, yet no one seems to be happy. Granted, half of those dozen games have been draws (one of which then was decided in a penalty kick shootout), but Chelsea have lost a grand total of two games since mid-October. And, lest we forget, we also have two league titles in three seasons, the second most prolific stretch in the club’s 112-year history.

So what is there to be so ridiculously negative about all the time?

Obviously, part of the problem is that social media, and the Internet at large, amplifies every voice. It’s how I am able to write this; it’s how you are able to respond. As usual, complaints are amplified more than praise, and the fanbase is big enough and social media is powerful enough that just about every opinion will be heard. You can’t please everyone regardless of what you do — sign players! no, sign those other players! spend more! spend less! play the youth! where’s the ambition! back the manager! Conte out! blame the Board! play 343! play 352! attack more! concede less! it’s his fault! it’s her fault! it’s your fault! — in that constant din of hot takes and shouting, someone’s bound to be unhappy.

Maybe we can all take a break and enjoy a bit of football? A trip to Wembley is on the line, and it all must be decided today after a scoreless first leg. Extra-time (with away goals) and a penalty kick shootout will follow the 90 minutes if needed.

Date / Time: Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, England

Referee: Michael Oliver — Oliver was also the referee three years ago at this exact juncture, when Chelsea beat Liverpool 1-0 in extra-time. This will be his third Chelsea game this season (both previously ones were draws, including the 0-0 vs. Arsenal at the Bridge in the league and the 1-1 at Anfield).

Forecast: Windy, rainy, nasty conditions all day before slightly calmer evening

On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); ESPN Deportes (USA); none? (India); elsewhere

Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); ESPN3 (USA)

Arsenal team news: Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you will have known that Alexis Sánchez finally left the boredom of Arsenal for more richly dramatic pastures, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving the other way from Manchester United in a swap deal — the fact of which is still dancing on the cold dead body of the “no swap deals” narrative. RIP, “no swap deals”. Happy Second Christmas, rumor mill.

Mkhitaryan is cup tied and thus ineligible, so he joins the injured Giroud, Welbeck, and Cazorla on the sidelines. Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal could however make their returns from their recent injuries and illnesses.

Like Chelsea, Arsenal put four past their hapless opponents over the weekend. Unlike Chelsea, that was Arsenal’s first win in six and just their fourth in the last twelve. Outside of potentially winning the Europa League, this game is Arsenal’s biggest remaining this season. They are out of the FA Cup and are spiraling towards finishing in sixth place. But they are just 90-120 minutes from a Wembley final and a potential knockout competition trophy, the likes of which, unlike Conte, Wenger has won a few times.

View from the enemy: The Short Fuse

Chelsea team news: Most are expecting an open game similar to the 2-2 draw at the start of this month, though Conte warned that we must be ready to “suffer without the ball” as well, which may be hinting at a more conservative setup.

Morata’s sudden back injury throws the obvious 3-5-2 plans out the window, which could see an all-smalls 3-4-3, a third successive start for Batshuayi (in either formation), or something entirely new and unexpected. Morata is joined by Fabregas on the sidelines, while Courtois, Cahill, and Drinkwater, all three of whom were injured for the weekend’s win, are set for late fitness tests. Christensen should be available after his concussion scare while Pedro returns from suspension.

Most of Chelsea’s top non-loanee youths played in yesterday’s 3-0 Checkatrade Trophy quarterfinal win over Oxford United, so they are unlikely to be involved in this one. This includes Ethan Ampadu, Dujon Sterling, Kyle Scott, and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Last season, Chelsea won 13 matches in a row in the league. Today, we have a chance for 13 matches in a row unbeaten in all competitions. Not quite the same level, but a worthy pursuit nonetheless, especially with a Wembley final against Manchester City on the line.

Previously: Highlights of the 2-2 at the Emirates three weeks ago that really should’ve been something like 5-4 to the Blues.

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