Capital One Cup final: 5 key managerial decisions for Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur
On Sunday, Chelsea and Tottenham resume their rivalry to contest the first major piece of silverware of the season. These two have already met twice this campaign, with each side winning on home soil. Spurs put 5 past Chelsea on New Year’s Day; only the second time a José Mourinho side has conceded 5 goals in a match in his illustrious managerial career. The Blues, meanwhile, ran out 3-0 winners when they welcomed Spurs to Stamford Bridge back in December.
Here, WhoScored.com look at the key selection decisions that Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino need to make before the 2015 Capital One Cup final kicks off on Sunday.
How do Chelsea replace Nemanja Matic?
Nemanja Matic has established himself as perhaps the finest defensive midfielder in world football following his return to Chelsea 18 months ago. However, the Serb will sit out the final following his red card in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Burnley. His absence could be crucial in deciding whether this season’s Capital One Cup ends up going to Stamford Bridge or White Hart Lane.
His absence will leave a huge void in the middle of the park that needs filling. Matic has won possession in the midfield third of the pitch more times (141) and made more tackles (96) than any other player in the Premier League this campaign, so Mourinho needs to decide how to replace the tough-tackling 26-year-old at Wembley.
With John Obi Mikel a doubt with a knee problem, the Portuguese may start with the previously untested midfield duo of Cesc Fábregas and Ramires in front of the defence. The Spaniard has looked a shadow of his early season self in recent weeks, with his WhoScored rating dropping from 7.91 before Christmas to 7.54 since. Ramires, meanwhile, does not have the positional discipline that Matic boasts. The Brazilian’s all-energy approach is beneficial in the latter stages of games, but a WhoScored weakness of ‘discipline’ could be a hindrance having picked up 4 yellow cards in his 6 league starts this season.
Does Mourinho call on Juan Cuadrado?
Without Matic, the chance for Spurs to win the midfield is there for the taking, though Chelsea could field a January arrival to help ease his loss, with Juan Cuadrado possibly set to make just his 3rd start for the club. The Colombian came in as a replacement for the departing André Schürrle and could be called upon here.
Chelsea were carved open with ease when they travelled to White Hart Lane earlier in the season with Matic and Fàbregas in front of the defence. Willian may offer a similar level of doggedness to Cuadrado in midfield, but on the right, he tends to fade in and out of games. Oscar, meanwhile, has developed a tendency to go missing in the big matches.
In such a key fixture, Cuadrado could start on the right with Willian in the middle, simply because of the former's work off the ball. Tucking inside will make the path to goal that much rougher for the north London side, while his directness when in possession should put the Spurs defence on the backfoot when Chelsea have the ball.
Of all Chelsea players, only Eden Hazard (4.6) is averaging more successful dribbles per league match this season than Cuadrado (2.3). Mourinho may resist the temptation to throw him in at the deep end and instead utilise the 26-year-old in the second half, though due to his defensive contribution, Cuadrado may be a useful option from the off.
Who partners John Terry in defence?
In defence, Mourinho must decide who will partner John Terry at the heart of the backline, with the luxury of being able to call on Gary Cahill or Kurt Zouma. The latter has started 3 of Chelsea's last 4 league matches and played a starring role in their 1-0 win over Liverpool in the second leg semi-final win at Stamford Bridge at the end of January. However, his lack of experience could count against him.
Cahill has formed an effective partnership with Terry in recent seasons, but has looked shaky ever since a poor performance in Chelsea's 3-0 win over Spurs in December. The England international's two worst performances this season according to WhoScored ratings both came against Tottenham, with a 6.20 when the two teams met at Stamford Bridge and a 5.53 at White Hart Lane.
Whoever starts alongside Terry will have their hands full against an in-form Harry Kane, but Mourinho has a tough decision to make as to who he selects.
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