On the back of a convincing victory in one cup competition, Chelsea will hope to place one foot in the final of another when they host Swansea in the first leg of their Capital One League Cup semi-final on Wednesday (7.45pm GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea triumphed 5-1 away to Southampton in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday, bouncing back in some style from their league defeat to Queen’s Park Rangers four days earlier.
The match saw the debut of Demba Ba (pictured) and the former Newcastle striker immediately provided some recompense for the £7.5 million Chelsea are thought to have paid for his services with two goals than will surely cause concern for the benched Fernando Torres.
Aside from his goals, Ba was a livelier, more robust central presence than Torres. His good movement helped generate space for the attacking midfield three to work in. His strong physique allowed him to hold the ball up and wait for options on the few occasions he became isolated.
Ba pretty much guarantees goals – better than one every two matches since moving to England in January 2011 – but if he can also offer a better contribution to the team’s general play than Torres he will surely become the regular first choice.
Juan Mata continued his superb recent form, providing two assists and orchestrating many of Chelsea’s better attacking moves. Victor Moses, too, continues to grow into his wide role, providing a slick touch in the build up to the first goal and then scoring the second himself with a well placed low finish from inside the area.
Moses and his Nigerian compatriot Jon Obi Mikel left to meet up with their national team squad ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations shortly after Saturday’s match. So Marko Marin and Oscar will compete with Mata and Eden Hazard for the three attacking midfield berths on Wednesday.
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez is also without Petr Cech, who missed the victory over Southampton with a groin injury, and captain John Terry, both of whom are not expected back until mid-January.
His opposite number, Michael Laudrup, has no such selection issues concerning him ahead of Wednesday’s tie, with the long-term absence of Neil Taylor the only blot on an otherwise empty injury list.
Laudrup watched his Swansea side secure a replay with an 87th minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal in the FA Cup on Sunday, the least they deserved from a match they had led until the final ten minutes.
It was a result that extended the Swans’ unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches and means that they have now lost just two of their last 15. They are currently ninth in the Premier League, two places ahead of the 11th they finished under Brendan Rodgers last season.
Succeeding Rogers was never going to be an easy task, especially when his departure was followed by those of Joe Allen, Glyfi Sigurdsson and Scott Sinclair, three of the club’s key players. But Laudrup has bought wisely, excelled tactically and continued Swansea’s upward curve.
The Swans reached the final four of the Capital One Cup for the first time in their history with a nervy 1-0 win over Championship side Middlesborough at the quarter final stage. Laudrup showed that he is taking the opportunity to win silverware seriously by resting captain Ashley Williams and top scorer Michu from the start against Arsenal.
Michu arrived from the bench in the second half and scored the first of Swansea’s goals to take his total in all competitions to 15 since his £2 million summer move from Rayo Vallecano. He has proved to be the most astute of Laudrup’s signings and is attracting attention from elsewhere following a string of excellent performances.
Chico Flores, Jonathan de Guzman and Ki Sung-Yong have also done well since moving to the Liberty Stadium in the summer and form part of a Swansea side who look well set to continue impressing in the second half of the season.
Chelsea v Swansea Betting Tips
These two sides drew 1-1 when they met in Swansea in the Premier League earlier this season and we expect this match to be a similarly tightly-contested affair.
Chelsea will, however, be keen to secure at least some sort of advantage over their opponents ahead of the second leg in Wales and we believe the Blues are likely to emerge victorious by a slender margin.
- Swansea have lost just two of their last 15 matches in all competitions and both of those defeats were by a single goal. We therefore suggest backing Swansea + 1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 4/6 with Pinnacle.
- Chelsea tend to score early in matches at Stamford Bridge but Swansea have proved obdurate opponents away from home, on average conceding their first goal in the 60th minute. We believe they are capable of performing a similar stifling job on Chelsea’s early attacks and therefore suggest backing the “time of first goal – Chelsea” to be after the 27th minute @ 39/40 with BetVictor.