The first proper silverware of the English season is up for grabs when Chelsea square off against Tottenham Hotspur in the final of the Capital One Cup at Wembley on Sunday (17:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea come into the final following a week of rest on the back of their fractious 1-1 draw at home to Burnley last weekend. They top the Premier League table, five points clear of Manchester City in second, with 60 points from 18 wins, six draws and two defeats.
Jose Mourinho’s side took an early lead through Branislav Ivanovic at home to Burnley on Saturday but failed to press home their advantage against determined and aggressive opponents. Nemanja Matic was sent off in the 70th minute after reacting to a poor challenge from Ashley Barnes and Burnley then equalised through Ben Mee 10 minutes later.
While Mourinho made his usual refereeing complaints in the wake of the draw – of course, conveniently overlooking the decisions that have gone his side’s way so far this season – the truth was that Chelsea again failed to match the level of performance they produced earlier in the season. Burnley had caused them problems even before the red card.
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There is, of course, no need for panic. Chelsea are still strongly placed at the top of the league table and will be confident of parlaying their away goal against Paris Saint-Germain into a place in the last eight of the Champions League. But they will need to rediscover a little of their zip in the coming weeks in order to ensure a successful end to the season.
Mourinho has no confirmed injury absentees for this Capital One Cup final, although the participation of Jon Obi Mikel (knee) is highly doubtful. Nemanja Matic misses out through suspension.
Tottenham Hotspur arrive at Wembley on the back of being eliminated from the Europa League away to Fiorentina on Thursday. They sit seventh in the Premier League table, with 44 points from 13 wins, five draws and eight defeats.
Spurs performed well during the first half of Thursday’s match and really should have gone into the break ahead after Roberto Soldado fluffed an easy pass to Nacer Chadli when both were clean through on goal. Defensive mistakes from Federico Fazio and Jan Vertonghen then gifted Fiorentina two second-half goals that saw them go through 3-1 on aggregate.
It was hardly the morale boost that coach Mauricio Pochettino (pictured) would have been looking for in the build-up to this League Cup Final, not least because it extended his side’s winless streak in all competitions to four matches. Widening it out a little, Spurs have won just two of their last eight – a streak that has, in fairness, largely coincided with a very dense set of fixtures.
There have been plenty of positive signs since Pochettino’s appointment last summer, but the truth is that his side are still very much a work in progress. The likes of Nabil Bentaleb, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane have thrived under his command but defensive problems remain and there are still a number of players in the squad who are likely to be moved on.
Pochettino looks to have no particular injury concerns coming into the final, although the fitness of those who played the full 90 minutes on Thursday will clearly need to be assessed.
Chelsea v Spurs Betting Tips
These two sides have shared a victory apiece in their league meetings this season, with Chelsea winning 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and Spurs recording a thrilling 5-3 victory at White Hart Lane. Their last eight meetings in all competitions have seen four wins for Chelsea, one for Spurs and three draws. Spurs defeated Chelsea in the final of this competition in 2008.
Chelsea progressed past Bolton Wanderers, Shrewsbury Town, Derby County and Liverpool to reach the final and with a full week of rest behind them will be confident of overcoming a Spurs side who have endured a far more hectic schedule in the build-up to the match. It must also be noted that Mourinho has a strong record in major finals.
Spurs defeated Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Hove Albion, Newcastle and Sheffield United on route to Wembley, where they will be seeking to win their first piece of silverware in seven years. Pochettino was able to protect the majority of his key players (sans Eriksen) from a full 90 minutes on Thursday, but the trip to Italy was still far from ideal preparation.
Chelsea are the most likely winners, as reflected by the bookies’ odds, but Spurs still have a solid chance of at least forcing extra time.
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- Chelsea got off to a quick start in both of the league fixtures between these sides this season, opening the scoring inside the first 20 minutes on both occasions. There has also been a goal within the opening 20 minutes of four of the last five League Cup finals. Back under 26 minutes on the ‘time of first goal’ market @ 10/11 with Paddy Power.