Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is fuming over the scheduling of their Capital One Cup tie with Arsenal, as Dominic Fifield of The Guardian reports. The Blues travel to the Emirates just 48 hours after a hard-fought win over Manchester City in Sunday’s 4 p.m. kick-off, while the home side have had an extra day to recover from their 2-0 lunchtime win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
That limited recovery time is certain to have a negative impact on a cup tie between the Premier League’s first- and second-place teams.
Arsenal have been playing some very attractive football as per usual, but this game will represent their first big challenge of the domestic season. Arsene Wenger has a history of fielding the youth team for the Capital One Cup but is unlikely to continue that trend considering his club’s recent run of form.
Mourinho confirmed in his post-match press conference that he would make wholesale changes to his side, saying:
If they want a big game, we cannot give a big game. If they want the players that were playing against Manchester City, we cannot give them that. If they want us not to win a trophy, that's a help, because if they want a big game between two big teams in London they should put the game on Wednesday, not on Tuesday. I'm not going to give them that.
Whilst everybody in blue would prefer to have a full-strength side available for a cup clash with their London rivals, it is not too difficult to put a positive spin on the situation.
Cesar Azpilicueta was singled out for praise in Mourinho’s matchday program notes on Sunday. Having applauded his work rate and determination, The Special One signed off with “I hope you like him and respect him as much as I do. Players win matches, squads win titles - I am a lucky manager to have Cesar.” Such high praise from the manager virtually guarantees the man the fans call "Dave" will start against Arsenal.
David Luiz should return to the starting XI out of necessity, but the question of who will partner him at centre-half is trickier.
Both Gary Cahill and John Terry have played back-to-back games and will most likely be rested, leaving Mourinho the chance to stick to his original assertion that he would start the youngsters. Nathan Ake, the 18-year-old, was the breakthrough star of last season for Chelsea and his performances for the Under-21s bode well for his inclusion in the squad to face Arsenal.
Ashley Cole should start on the left despite playing the full 90 minutes against Man City in his first game back from injury. Ray Wilkins made a salient point when the left-back was injured last season, comparing him to a machine that needs to be kept running to work most effectively.
Frank Lampard and Ramires will almost certainly be rested for this match. Lampard looked exhausted against City and will be unable to recover in such a short space of time, while Ramires could also do with a break. Michael Essien started the third-round tie at Swindon Town and will probably return at the Emirates alongside John Obi Mikel.
Chelsea may not be playing their full-strength, first-choice XI but the players named above certainly have the quality to see them progress to the next round of the competition.