Sunday 1 March 2015 15:58, UK
Jose Mourinho returns to the stage where it all started for him as Chelsea take on Tottenham in the Capital One Cup final on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1HD.
The Portuguese sealed his first trophy on English soil 10 years ago when Chelsea edged an entertaining League Cup final 3-2 against Liverpool at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
In his second spell in charge, Mourinho has transformed the fortunes of the men from down the Kings’ Road, and success in Sunday’s final could be one of several trophies this season.
The Premier League leaders arrive at Wembley relatively unscathed. The Blues scored the opening goal in each match on their way to the final and are yet to trail in this year’s tournament.
Mourinho’s men are still challenging on three fronts which will certainly stretch their squad, and the Blues’ resources will be tested with pivotal midfield general Nemanja Matic missing out through suspension on Sunday.
The media furore is yet to die down following Mourinho’s comments in the aftermath of last week’s feisty affair against Burnley which saw Matic dismissed, and Spurs will be hoping their London rivals will be distracted by the continued debate over refereeing decisons.
Mauricio Pochettino endured a stuttered start to life at White Hart Lane, but the Argentine supremo has certainly turned things around, having instilled his high pressing game on his new side.
Spurs have the highest tackle success rate in the Premier League, despite having made 10 more tackles than any other side. Several players have eulogised over their added fitness levels, and it is reaping rewards.
Despite competing in the Europa League and reaching Sunday’s final, Spurs are just two points off a top four spot – emphasising the strength of their squad.
Spurs battled past a determined Sheffield United side to reach Wembley having cruised through the earlier rounds, and the north Londoners will fancy their chances after coming from behind to defeat the league leaders 5-3 at White Hart Lane in the last meeting between the teams
Goals could well be on the agenda at Wembley too. Only one of the last 11 League Cup finals has seen fewer than three goals scored (Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur in 2009), and the last league meeting between these two certainly indicates excitement is on the way.
Matic is suspended and will sit out the first of his two-match suspension after his dismissal for his reaction to a tackle by Burnley's Ashley Barnes last weekend, while John Obi Mikel (knee) remains out, so Ramires is likely to start in midfield.
Mourinho has decisions to make in goal, with Thibaut Courtois likely to be selected ahead of Petr Cech, and in central defence, with Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill competing to start alongside John Terry.
Tottenham have no fresh injury worries.
Pochettino made seven alterations for Thursday's Europa League tie at Fiorentina, starting the likes of Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker from the bench with the Wembley finale in mind.
The Spurs head coach has to choose whether to start Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm in goal, while captain Younes Kaboul, Emmanuel Adebayor and Etienne Capoue will be sweating on their place in the squad after being left in London for the last-32 tie.
Both Chelsea and Tottenham are looking to secure their fifth League Cup success. Only two sides have managed to achieve this – Liverpool (eight League Cups) and Aston Villa (five).
Chelsea’s last two League Cup final victories came under Jose Mourinho in 2005 and 2007. All three of Mourinho’s domestic final appearances as Chelsea boss have ended with the Blues lifting the trophy (FA Cup in 2006/07).
Chelsea have lost two of their three previous meetings against Spurs at Wembley, both by a 2-1 scoreline (1967 FA Cup final and 2008 League Cup final). They did however beat them 5-1 there in the 2012 FA Cup semi-final.
I think Chelsea will win it 2-1.
Harry Kane has been involved in more of Spurs’ goals in this competition than any other player so far (four, scoring three and assisting another).
Spurs’ 5-3 win over Chelsea in January ended a run of 10 games against the Blues without a win (D5 L5).
Petr Cech, John Terry and Didier Drogba played in both the 2005 and 2007 finals under Mourinho, with Drogba scoring in both (once in 2005, twice in 2007). The Ivorian also scored Chelsea’s goal in defeat to Tottenham in 2008.
It will be a tight game. There is no Nemanja Matic, which makes a massive difference for Chelsea. I think Chelsea will just win 2-1, although it will be a hard, hard game for them - and a good game too.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1
Chelsea are Sky Bet’s clear favourites for Sunday’s final at just 1/3 to lift the trophy and 7/10 to win within 90 minutes to Tottenham’s price of 4/1. A repeat of Spurs’ extra-time triumph in 2008 is deemed unlikely at 22/1 while the 5-3 scoreline recorded a White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day is considered even less probable with odds of 250/1. Diego Costa heads the first goalscorer market at 7/2, with Harry Kane almost double that price at 13/2, while both players to score at Wembley is 11/2.
Coverage of the Capital One Cup final starts at 2.30pm on Sky Sports 1HD on Sunday.