Not many expect Chelsea to do much better this time around than in the 6-0 loss to Manchester City just a couple weeks ago — in fact, with the big Manchester United vs. Liverpool Premier League showdown happening just before, most may not even bother (or be able) to watch this League Cup final — but it is a final, and sometimes strange things can happen in one-off games.
Both teams have won this competition five times (Chelsea in 1965, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2015; City in 1970, 1976, 2014, 2016, 2018). Chelsea do have one more finals appearance — this will be our 8th and City’s 7th.
There’s of course a decent chance that this is yet another taser shot in the face to our season and Sarri’s prospects as Chelsea head coach. If we win, it would be the first major trophy of his career. On the flip-side, he may not get another loss, though it would seem harsh to sack him after a game everyone expects him to lose — then again, just as in the match at the Etihad, the manner of the expected defeat makes a difference.
Date / Time: Sunday, February 24, 2019, 16:30 GMT, 11:30am EST; 10pm IST
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Referee: Jonathan Moss — a rather familiar face, back for the sixth time this season already, including the Community Shield. He oversaw that poor loss as well as the 2-1 reverse to Wolves, and the disappointing 0-0 draw against Southampton after New Year’s. He also saw us beat Cardiff in the league and Derby County in the League Cup. The Wolves match was the only game where he handed out more than 1 yellow card, which is surely good news for City’s tactical fouling.
Forecast: Sunny, almost balmy day where hope springs anew
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); none (USA); none? (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); ESPN+ (USA); none? (India)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea are sweating the fitness of record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga (hamstring) who’s started practically every match and has generally done very well despite getting hung out to dry repeatedly by the rickety defending ahead of him. The veteran former Manchester City backup Willy Caballero made his 20th Chelsea appearance on Thursday instead, and did well enough while having very little to do. One would expect the Chelsea goalkeeper, whoever he will be, to be a lot busier on Sunday.
Pedro and Davide Zappacosta also missed Thursday’s match, and the latter’s absence prevented César Azpilicueta from getting a rest, which was one of Sarri’s stated fitness concerns afterwards — Azpilicueta, like Kanté, was withdrawn in the second half and it’s partially why the head coach decided to go with minimal preparations for the final, giving the players all of Friday and Sunday morning off, too.
Fitness and confidence, Chelsea may be lacking (at least) a bit of both, and that could spell doom once again.
Manchester City team news: At the opposite end of the spectrum, City are brimming with confidence — including a comeback win with 10 men against Schalke 04 in midweek — and are on course for an historic quadruple.
City will be without Benjamin Mendy, who’s injured again (and possibly in Guardiola’s doghouse for off field behavior), while neither Gabriel Jesus (thigh) nor John Stones (groin) nor Fabian Delph (illness) are expected to feature. City will probably be just fine without them, having won 13 of 14 in all competitions since the last days of 2018, conceding just 8 and scoring a metric tonne (52, to be exact).
View from the enemy: Bitter and Blue
Previously: Here’s how Chelsea beat City 2-0 earlier this season.