Passion and depth to give Chelsea advantage against Arsenal

Posted by Mark Worrall

Rex Features/AP ImagesJuan Mata should get a run out in the Capital One Cup.

The pick of this week's Capital One Cup fourth-round ties sees Premier League table-toppers Arsenal and second-place Chelsea collide in what promises to be a tumultuous London derby at the Emirates. Despite the fact that respective managers Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho will rotate their squads, both men will be extremely keen to progress in the competition, and it will be interesting to see to what extent Wenger sticks to his regular League Cup routine of giving the Gunners youth players the chance of playing on the first team.

"I will rotate against Chelsea, but play with a team that has a good chance to qualify," Wenger said after the draw had been made. Arsenal booked their place in the fourth round with a penalty shootout win over West Brom at the Hawthorns. The Gunners starting XI against the Baggies featured only two first-team regulars, Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta, and the latter, having been sent off during Arsenal's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend, will be suspended for the visit of Chelsea. With the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Abou Diaby still injured and Mathieu Flamini joining them on the sideline, Wenger may have little option other than putting his faith in youth, and Serge Gnabry, Isaac Hayden, Ryo Miyaichi and Thomas Eisfeld will all relish the chance of a start.

A tough Premier League encounter with Liverpool looms on Saturday, meaning the Arsenal manager is unlikely to risk key players against Chelsea, so the experience in the Gunners' lineup will come from fringe first-team players Lukasz Fabianski, Thomas Vermaelen, Nicklas Bendtner and Tomas Rosicky. Jack Wilshere, who started on the bench at Palace, could also feature.

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For his part, Jose Mourinho had previously indicated, with an element of protest, that he would select a team made up with players from the Blues' development squad.

"My thought is that I have to make a decision, and my answer is the under-21 team will have a very good experience in the Capital One Cup," he said after learning of the draw and how it affected Chelsea's fixture schedule. "We play Sunday against Man City and we play Tuesday against Arsenal. When the people that decide the fixtures play us on the Tuesday after a Sunday match and Arsenal play on the Saturday (against Crystal Palace), it's something that I have to accept, because I have no other option, but I have to prioritise. The league is more important. After that we go to Newcastle, too, and probably it will be a good chance for the kids to play a good match."

While it is admirable to think that Mourinho might consider playing his under-21s, the facts of the matter are that the Chelsea manager has sufficient depth in his first-team squad to select a starting XI who could compete quite capably in the Premier League, and he will not risk losing to Arsenal just to prove a point. Mark Schwarzer, Ryan Bertrand, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Michael Essien, Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne and Demba Ba all will be in the Special One's thoughts with Willian, Mikel and Samuel Eto'o not far away, either. Of the under-21s, Nathan Ake and Lewis Baker are the current likely lads, and Ake could slot comfortably into central defence alongside Luiz should Mourinho, as expected, rest Gary Cahill and John Terry.

In his 17 years as Gunners manager, Wenger has yet to win the League Cup. Mourinho, on the other hand, masterminded two Chelsea triumphs in the competition in his first stint at Stamford Bridge, including a 2-1 victory over Wenger's Arsenal in the 2007 final. The pedigree and attitude of those selected will play a part in determining the outcome of Tuesday's encounter, but there is one important factor that should not be overlooked and one that could tip the balance in the visitors' favour. Support! Mourinho and his men will be cheered on in north London by a 9,000-strong blue-and-white army. Bristling with fervour, Chelsea supporters will get behind their team from the first minute until the last, relishing the opportunity to chide Gunners fans about Arsenal's lack of success in recent years and mocking the soulless atmosphere of the Emirates Stadium.

In last week's home Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal Football Club were taught a harsh lesson both on and off the pitch as Dortmund stole victory with a late winner and their vociferous supporters muted the home crowd from the start. Passion alone cannot win a football game, but against Arsenal, that "12th man" advantage will be Chelsea's, and for everything else, there is Mourinho.


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