Blackburn v Chelsea, Carling Cup quarter-final, December 2, 2009
After their supreme performance at the Emirates last Sunday, Chelsea’s now head north to Ewood Park, where Blackburn Rovers, who were thumped 5-nil (50/1) by the Blues earlier in the season, await in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.
Unlike many other teams, Chelsea have long held the Carling Cup in high esteem. Since the year 2000, the Pensioners have reached the quarter-finals stage on no less than seven times, progressed to the last four on four separate occasions, and won it twice. (Chelsea are 5/2 favourites to win the Carling Cup.)
As Carlo Ancelotti continues the Bluesâ€™ assault on all trophies possible, the Carling Cup provides an opportunity for realistic silverware to be banked early on in the season; a victory that would undoubtedly cement the new Italian manager with the Stamford Bridge faithful.
With games coming thick and fast from now until the turn of the New Year, squad rotation becomes less of a luxury and more of a necessity for Chelsea. Jose Bosingwa is the only definite absentee for the trip to Rovers, while we can expect several members of the Blues’ supporting cast to receive a run-out, particularly taking into account the tricky away game at Manchester City coming up this Saturday evening.
Following a dazzling cameo against Wolves, many Chelsea fans are calling for the inclusion of Gael Kakuta (2/1 to score) in this Carling Cup tie, while promising youngsters defender Jeffrey Bruma (16/1 to score) and forward Daniel Sturridge (6/1 to score first & Chelsea win) could also get some additional experience in the first team.
That said, Chelsea’s line-up will include a host of seasoned international stars with the likes of Deco (8/1 to score first), Salomon Kalou (6/1 to score first & Chelsea win), Branislav Ivanovic and Juliano Belletti all in line for the start.
Sam Allardyceâ€™s Rovers, though, will be no pushover for the table-topping Blues.
The Lancastrians have two main injury concerns, with playmaker David Dunn (7/2 to score) (six goal already this season) doubtful with a calf strain, and left-back Martin Olsson suffering with a virus. Striker Franco di Santo is ruled out due to the terms and conditions of his loan agreement from Chelsea.
While the likes of Ryan Nelsen (16/1 to score) and Christopher Samba (16/1 to score first) will ensure that Blackburn stay robust at the back, the bigger fears for the hosts will be whether they can score against the Premier League leaders. Jason Roberts (10/3 to score) is the club’s leading striker with a pitiful three goals, Morten-Gamst Pedersen (4/1 to score) had netted twice so far, while the likes of El-Hadji Diouf (11/1 to score first) and Nikola Kalinic (9/1 to score first) have only scored once is a miserable return since the season began.
Last weekend saw many observers beginning to compare the managerial achievements of Ancelotti and Mourinho, with many believing that the Italian is well on his way to possibly eclipsing the feats of the Special One. It is worth remembering that the Carling Cup was Mourinhoâ€™s first Chelsea silverware, and the players have expressed a desire to reclaim the trophy as it provides the earliest chance for serious medal-winning in a season. Blackburn should be dispatched, and the road to Wembley will get a little shorter after a detour to Ewood Park.
101predicts: Blackburn 0 â€“ Chelsea 2 (9/2)
Full match odds here.