Capital One Cup Semifinals: Predicting the 2 Ties
Chelsea became the fourth and final team to book their place in the semifinals of the Capital One Cup for this season as they overcame Championship side Leeds United by 5-1 in the rescheduled quarterfinal clash on Wednesday.
Despite going a goal down by halftime, the Premier League side displayed their superiority with a fine second-half performance to progress.
They add their name to the list already containing Swansea City, who beat Middlesbrough 1-0 in the last eight, Aston Villa, into the semis courtesy of a 4-1 win at Norwich City and League Two outfit Bradford City, who vanquished Arsenal on penalties.
The four sides were paired up in the draw following the Chelsea fixture to give the two semifinals and a first chance to look ahead at who might contest the Final itself at Wembley in February.
Chelsea vs. Swansea City
Michael Laudrup commented after his team's quarterfinal victory that he didn't mind which side he was drawn against in the semis as long as Swansea played the away leg first.
Having seen the draw pair his team with Chelsea, Laudrup has got his wish and Swansea will play at Stamford Bridge first, followed by the second leg at the Liberty Stadium in Wales.
Chelsea will start the tie as favourites to progress of course over the two legs but much might depend on their continued involvement at the time in the Premier League title race. Should the blues still be within touching distance of the top two, fixtures around the dates of the semifinals could dictate that a few first team regulars are rested.
Indeed, Chelsea faces a demanding trip to Stoke just a few days after the first leg will be contested.
Even so, Rafa Benitez has long proved himself a master tactician at negotiating knockout competitions over a pair of games, leading Liverpool to two Champions League finals and one League Cup final—where they lost in 2005 against his new club, Chelsea.
Swansea should have no relegation worries for the season and will likely field a full strength team for both legs as they attempt to reach their first ever League Cup final.
It could be very tight and Swansea will hope the second leg in front of their own fans is decisive—but Chelsea have such a fantastic array of attacking talent, that it's difficult to see them being kept out for two matches.
Chelsea to progress.
Bradford City vs. Aston Villa
A David vs. Goliath clash would be both a pointless and a condescending label to give this tie, given that Bradford City knocked out a far bigger club in Arsenal in the previous round.
Even so, the gulf between the two teams is yet again more a chasm than a mere gap—and Bradford City will need so much more luck and hard work than they have already put in to this competition if they are to go one step further.
Villa were in the Final of this competition as recently as 2010 when they lost somewhat controversially to Manchester United, but this represents perhaps their best chance at trophy glory in more than a decade.
Paul Lambert is doing a slow but steady job of rebuilding Villa and though they have plenty of work to do to rid themselves of relegation fears, a two-legged semifinal where the decisive match is at home should present a wonderful opportunity to build further confidence in his reign.
Bradford, quite simply, will have to go for the victory in the first game.
Who will contest the 2013 Capital One Cup Final?
A home win, even by a single goal, will give them plenty to hang on for in the return fixture and they have already shown their great spirit and organisation against the Gunners. A similarly resilient and optimistic display will be needed, this time twice, in the semifinals—and even then it's hard to see them winning through.
Aston Villa to progress.
The semifinals will be played in weeks commencing 7 and 21 January, with the Final hosted at Wembley scheduled for Feb. 24, 2013.
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