In Mauricio Pochettino’s press conference before the FA Cup tie against Preston on Friday he said he was going to put out a strong team in both cup competitions this year, noting that there is a potential route into Europe available in each of them.
Chelsea have been very poor for long spells of this season, utterly hopeless at times, and the chances of us winning anything have seemed slim. Whether it’s SA sports betting or a more local site, you can get great odds on the Blues lifting a trophy this season. It might just be worth a punt, given that the top Premier League teams in each are likely to rest players to focus on qualifying for Europe through the league.
We’re already in the EFL Cup semi final, with two games to play against Middlesbrough. This tie is by no means a given just because our opposition are in the Championship – we’ve struggled against plenty of weak sides this season, and they’ll be extra motivated by the chance for a rare game at Wembley. The Riverside will be absolutely rocking on the 9th of January, and it would be a huge mistake to underestimate Michael Carrick’s team.
But over two legs – especially with the second game at Stamford Bridge, a full strength Chelsea team should have more than enough to see off the 12th placed team in the Championship. If we can’t we’ve got no place being in Europe anyway.
If we can get past Boro, we play either Fulham or Liverpool – tougher tests, but both beatable in a one off game at Wembley without question.
Meanwhile in the FA Cup we’ve squeezed past Preston into the Fourth Round, and while our performance was hardly convincing (despite a comfortable 4-0 final score) it was as game where the manager really demonstrated his intent to use the strongest possible team in all cup games this season. Apart from a rested Conor Gallagher, Pochettino used a full strength team – even to the point of annoying some fans who wanted to see more youngsters and rotation.
That competition is more of an unknown, as the Third Round has only just been played and there are still many top teams in there. But if things continue to come together over the next couple of months, and if we manage to get our first XI fit and firing, we can certainly see us going far in the competition as other teams focus on their European exploits and league position.