After beating Brighton 2-1 two days ago, Chelsea are already back in action in a home match against AFC Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup (nee League Cup) quarter-final.
With the way that Liverpool and Manchester City have played this season, the Premier League is probably out of reach. However, the League Cup presents a real opportunity for the Blues to grab some silverware in Maurizio Sarri’s debut season (even if City are still in it as well, and are into the semifinals after the victory on penalties against Leicester City earlier today).
The pre-match press conference was handled by assistant Gianfranco Zola as it had been the case for previous rounds of the competition. First off, Zola talked briefly about the big(gest) news of the day, José Mourinho’s sacking at Manchester United.
“It is never pleasant to see a coach dismissed. Not pleasant for anyone, especially José who has won so much and for this club. I want to wish him the best for a new adventure and I am sure it will be somewhere else. Nowadays getting the sack is our job. The big and the small coaches. He will want to bounce back.”
After those token words of support, the focus turned to Wednesday’s match and “dangerous” Bournemouth who will be taken the match just as “seriously” as Chelsea.
“We are ambitious. We want to win and we will treat it seriously. There are a lot of games to play. There will be a strong team, for sure. It can be tricky. I remember last year, we know Bournemouth is a dangerous team. They have gone far, good coach and team. We know our potentials, we have had a bad spell but we have a lot of confidence.”
While this Cup presents a great opportunity for a trophy this season, and we must surely do whatever we can to win it so that we have something other than passing and possession statistics to show for the season, Zola also reminded that we need to focus on long-term, sustainable success as well.
“We want to win things, it is a quarter-final. He doesn’t really [need to win something in first season], he has to build up. Last year [Chelsea] won and we want to achieve something, but we are not in a urge for that. We want to be competitive in this league and Europe. We need to think in a short term and long term.”
“This team plays in the way he wants to play, not consistently yet, but it is coming. It is demanding what the coach wants. I can understand it is difficult. As much as we try to play offensive there are a lot of ways you need to be defensive. This is what the players need to achieve.”
As seriously as we might take things, we might still play it safe and not risk Eden Hazard’s dodgy ankle. Alvaro Morata remains sidelined as well, even if Zola repeated Sarri’s vague prognosis of the knee issue not being too serious for the striker.
“I don’t think [Morata will play]. He twisted his knee. It won’t take long, but [he’s] not in contention for tomorrow.
“Eden has a knock in his foot. We will decide today. He is one of our best players and to have him available is a big thing.”
-Gianfranco Zola; Source: Football.London
But fixture congestion is an even bigger thing, and Chelsea have another match coming up just three days after this one. We’re going to just have to trust that the rest of the squad can deliver.