Road to Wembley: Chelsea’s run to the Carabao Cup Final

Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea head to Wembley on Sunday to take on Liverpool in the final of the Carabao Cup. The Chelsea head coach will go head-to-head with fellow countryman Jurgen Klopp in what is sure to be an entertaining affair at the home of English football.

Chelsea last won this competition back in 2015, defeating Spurs 2-0 thanks to goals from John Terry and Diego Costa. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s last triumph came in 2012 as the Reds beat Cardiff City of the Championship on penalties. Both have reached the final of this competition since those respective victories but found themselves on the losing side. Chelsea lost on penalties to Manchester City in the 2019 final while Liverpool were defeated by the same opposition in 2016 and via a penalty shootout too.

Chelsea and Liverpool will both be looking to make amends for those defeats and get their hands on the first domestic trophy of the season. From the third round in September to the final in February, we take a look at how the Blues booked their place at Wembley.

Round 3: Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa (4-3 on penalties)

Chelsea’s journey in the Carabao Cup started at the third round stage with a home tie against Aston Villa. As is the tradition with the League Cup, teams from the EFL start in the first round before Premier League sides not playing in Europe join in the following round. With the Blues of course playing in the Champions League, round three is where it all started. Thomas Tuchel’s men had already faced Villa earlier in the month which ended 3-0 to Chelsea. Romelu Lukaku scored a brace while Mateo Kovacic also got on the scoresheet. To get to this stage, Aston Villa won 6-0 away at League Two side Barrow.

After a cagey affair, Chelsea broke the deadlock thanks to Timo Werner, who netted his first goal of the campaign. However, shortly after, Aston Villa found themselves level through youngster Cameron Archer as the match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. Extra-time wasn’t used for this competition meaning the tie headed straight to penalties. The Blues won the shootout 4-3 with Reece James converting the winning spot kick to book their place in round four.

Round 4: Chelsea 1-1 Southampton (4-3 on penalties)

Awaiting the Blues in the next round was another Premier League side, this time being Southampton. The Saints thrashed League Two Newport 8-0 in the second round before overcoming Sheffield United on penalties the following round. However, a trip to Stamford Bridge would be a much tougher task. Chelsea had already played Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men in the league at the start of October, winning 3-1.

From a personal perspective, this match was my first visit of the season to Stamford Bridge. Having missed the opening ten minutes for numerous reasons, I was fortunate not to miss much. The Blues broke the deadlock just shy of half-time with Kai Havertz heading home from a corner. However, as was the case in round three, Southampton equalised early in the second half after Che Adams bundled the ball home.

My seat for the Southampton game from the Matthew Harding Upper

Despite Chelsea dominating for nearly all of the second half, they were unable to score past Fraser Forster meaning penalties was required to decide the winner. Marcos Alonso, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell all scored for the Blues while Mason Mount was the only player for Chelsea to miss.

Meanwhile, Theo Walcott and William Smallbone each missed for the Saints meaning it was 3-2 after eight penalties. Oriol Romeu scored to keep Southampton’s hopes alive but Reece James converted the winning penalty to send the Blues into the quarter-finals.

Quarter-Finals: Brentford 0-2 Chelsea

With holders Manchester City knocked out of the competition, Chelsea were now one of the favourites to win the Carabao Cup. For the quarter-finals, Tuchel’s men were handed an away tie against West London rivals Brentford. The Blues avoided Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham and Leicester, who were all in with a chance of winning it.

Brentford were playing in their maiden Premier League and sat comfortably in mid-table under manager Thomas Frank. Chelsea had already faced off against the Bees back in October, winning 1-0 as Ben Chilwell scored the winner. The Blues had Edouard Mendy to thank that day, who pulled off a string of excellent saves to preserve his side’s lead. At the time of the match taking place, Tuchel’s side were going through a difficult run of form, with injuries and COVID playing a huge part.

Tuchel fielded a very weakened eleven for the visit to the Brentford Community Stadium, which included starts for three academy graduates. Harvey Vale, Jude Soonsup-Bell and Xavier Simons all started on what was a proud day for La Cobham. As well as this, Charlie Webster and Lewis Hall were both named on the bench.

The Blues ran out 2-0 winners despite having to wait 80 minutes to score the first goal. An own goal from Pontus Jansson and a Jorginho penalty secured Chelsea’s passage into the last four.

Semi-Final 1st Leg: Chelsea 2-0 Spurs

The Carabao Cup was now down to just four team with Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal joining the Blues in the semi-finals. Chelsea was drawn against rivals Spurs with Liverpool taking on Arsenal in the other semi-final. Both ties were to take place over two legs, returning to the usual format.

The Blues have had a history of playing Spurs in this competition. The two met at the semi-final stage in 2019, which Chelsea won on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate score. Not only that, Chelsea and Spurs also played each other in the 2008 and 2015 finals. Chelsea won 2-0 in 2015 while in 2008, Spurs won 2-1 after extra-time. Meanwhile, last season, the two met in the fourth round in which the North London side won on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

The first leg took place at Stamford Bridge as Tottenham manager Antonio Conte made a return in the opposing dugout. It proved to be an unhappy return for the Italian though as the Blues won comfortably. Kai Havertz and a Ben Davies own goal in the first half helped Chelsea to a routine first leg victory.

My view from Westview for the first leg between Chelsea and Spurs

Semi-Final 2nd Leg: Spurs 0-1 Chelsea (3-0 on aggregate)

Finally, we move onto the second leg of Chelsea’s semi-final. After winning 2-0 at the Bridge, the Blues knew that avoiding defeat would book their place at Wembley. Ever since Spurs moved into their new stadium, Chelsea have won three of their four visits there, including a 3-0 victory at the start of the season.

Thomas Tuchel’s men continued that excellent form at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and secured their place in the Carabao Cup Final. Antonio Rudiger’s 18th minute goal added to their already comprehensive lead from the first leg. Spurs threatened a comeback but thanks to VAR, the score stayed 1-0. The Blues completed the job with minimal fuss to reach the final for the first time in three years.

Written and Edited by Matt North (@MattNorth_)

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