Leeds United vs. Chelsea: Blues on Their Last Chance at Stamford Bridge
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Leeds will need no motivating for this fixture.
The contest at Elland Road renews a rivalry between Rafa Benitez and Neil Warnock that stretches back to the Spaniard's Liverpool days. Even though Warnock insists there is no bad blood, don't be surprised to see some hard tackling and some angry play.
Chelsea will need to adapt to this aggressive football quickly, or their season could be over.
The delay of their flight back from the Club World Cup means that Benitez will likely rest some of his starters. This means that there will be opportunities available for people to make a statement, as well as opportunities to cement their demise.
Below are two men whose Chelsea careers will end with a poor performance.
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Tonight potentially represents the last time Ashley Cole wins something with Chelsea. If the Blues are to lose to Leeds and crash out of the Cup, it will be a sad end to Cole's time at Stamford Bridge.
Reports suggest that the England defender will leave the club at the end of the season, so he will be eager to get through this cup tie and on to the next one.
Cole has excelled in all forms of the game and will be greatly missed at Chelsea if he does not return. He has been incredibly consistent and is frequently given the title of “Best Left Back in the World.”
He needs to be on top of his game in order to get Chelsea through to the next round. The Daily Mail helpfully printed some Chelsea tactics that were left in a dressing room after the Club World Cup final, which involve Ashley Cole coming out to defend short corners.
Cole has been one of the best players at Chelsea across his entire time there. With the amount of talent on that roster, there is no bigger compliment to pay him.
Is Benitez out of a job if Chelsea exit the Capital One Cup?
It may be a cop-out, but the Capital One Cup is probably Benitez's last chance to win a trophy at Stamford Bridge. Exiting all competitions—as well as dropping out of the title race—will not get his contract renewed for next year, and Benitez will leave London having proved nothing.
The recent rejuvenation of Fernando Torres will have given Roman Abramovich something to think about, and the manager's relationship with the Spanish striker certainly looks to be working in the way the owner must have hoped.
Benitez knows the importance of this game, but his game-time decisions will decide his season.
He essentially has two options available. Does he reach into the depth chart and field less talented players? Or maybe he should take the risk and play his already-tired squad from the Corinthians game?
Either decision brings with it a higher-than-normal chance of defeat, and that could be enough to end Benitez's reign as Chelsea manager.
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