As far as memorable (and televisable!) League Cup encounters go, this one has all the makings of a classic. Club and world football legend Frank Lampard returns to the place where he made his name, taking on the team who’s shirt he wore for 13 years, with whom he won multiple league and cup trophies and even a Champions League.
In tow, he’ll have a couple more former Chelsea players and coaches, as well as two of the Academy’s more promising loanees in Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, who have been granted special dispensation from Chelsea to be able to play in this game. That they are two of Derby’s best players this season could be a problem later today.
Of course, Chelsea, third in the Premier League, will be expected to win easily over the Rams, sixth in the Championship. But so were Manchester United at Old Trafford and we can see where that got them.
It’s a single-elimination cup game, and anything can happen, especially on All Hallow’s Eve.
Date / Time: Wednesday, October 31, 2018, 19:45 GMT; 3:45pm EDT; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Jon Moss — fresh off of gifting Manchester United a ghost penalty against Everton, Moss is back for his third Chelsea match of the season (0-2 loss to Manchester City in the Community Shield; 4-1 win over Cardiff in the league). Incidentally, Moss was in charge four years ago as well when we beat Derby, 3-1 away, in the quarterfinals of the League Cup on the way to winning it all under Mourinho Mk.2.
Forecast: Cool and getting colder, possibly rainier, possibly spookier.
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); none (USA); none? (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); ESPN+ (USA); ChelseaTV (audio commentary only; int’l)
Chelsea team news: Eden Hazard has been confirmed to miss a third match in a row since suffering a back injury from Ashley Young’s scissor tackle ten days ago. Hopefully he will be back for the weekend. Others doubtful for tonight include Pedro, who was forced off on Sunday with a “stomach ache”, Olivier Giroud, who’s fatigued from looking good and scoring none, and Ethan Ampadu, who’s back in training but surely lacking match fitness after spending the last two months out with a knee injury.
Maurizio Sarri has adopted a sensible rotation schedule for the squad, with the first-string players getting the call on the weekends in the Premier League and the second-string players getting the call midweek in the Europa League and League Cup. Despite the high profile nature of this game, that pattern is expected to continue (just as it did in the previous round away at Anfield).
Chelsea remain unbeaten on the season in all actual competitions. That’s 14 in a row (10 in the league) for Sarri, which is surely exceeding anyone’s expectations. The honeymoon will eventually end, but let’s not go home just yet.
Derby County: Lampard’s on a five-match unbeaten run himself, too, though managing only two wins in that time. Still, in the wild world of the Championship, that’s good enough for 6th place after 15 matches, which would be good enough for the promotion playoffs if the season ended today. But they’re only 4 points behind Sheffield United for the league lead, so it’s still all to play for after the first third of the season.
Other than the two Chelsea loanees, Lampard and Jody Morris have been getting solid performances from youngsters like Harry Wilson and Tom Lawrence, while the veteran players on the team — goalkeeper Scott Carson, defender Richard Keogh, midfielder Bradley Johnson, and striker David Nugent — have provided a steady base to build on.
Derby have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They already scored a famous upset this season by wining at Old Trafford in the third round — they also beat Oldham and Hull City, all away, in the previous two rounds — so what’s to stop them from believing they could do it again? (Answer: Chelsea, obviously.)
Previously: The quarterfinals in 2014 featured goals from Eden Hazard, Filipe Luis, and André Schürrle. Cesc Fàbregas and César Azpilicueta started as well. Plus, a wild Loïc Rémy appears in the second half, too!