Brentford will go up against Chelsea in the fifth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. In current circumstances which has left both teams depleted in light of the surge of COVID-19 cases across the country, the two London sides will battle for a spot in the semi-finals of the League Cup. The Brentford Community Stadium will play host for the Bees who will look to return to footballing action after a span of 12 days, going up against a depleted Chelsea side.
The Bees have had their Premier League fixtures against Manchester United and Southampton postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak in their ranks, and will look to get back to action in the Carabao Cup quarter-final tie. The newly promoted West London club progressed into the fifth round off the back of a 2-1 win over Stoke City in the last round, where it was Sergi Canós who put the Bees in front before Ivan Toney scored what proved to be the match-winner.
It is only the second time in the club’s history that they will take part in this stage of the competition – the previous time ended with them beating Newcastle United 1-0 thanks to a Josh DaSilva goal, and then going on to lose against Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-finals. Thomas Frank’s side will look to equal their best finish in the competition when they go up against a much-depleted Chelsea side that have been accused of underperforming in recent weeks.
The Blues have been riddled by injuries and a number of positive COVID-19 reports in the ranks, both of which have coincided with a recent slump in form. Thomas Tuchel’s men have won only one of their last five games, and will go into the outing hoping to win for the first time in three games. After joining in the third round of the competition, the Blues defeated Aston Villa and Southampton – both on penalties – to progress into the quarter-final of the competition.
Chelsea are five-time winners of the Carabao Cup, and have also finished as runners-up on three other occasions. The last time that the Blues won this competition was in the 2014/15 season, when goals from John Terry and Diego Costa helped beat Tottenham Hotspur in the final at Wembley. The Bees and the Blues have previously met this season at the Brentford Community Stadium, when a Ben Chilwell goal separated the teams in a match that ended 1-0 to the Blues.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Wednesday, 22nd December 2021.
Time: 7:45 pm (UK).
Venue: Brentford Community Stadium, London.
Brentford have been given a major boost to their plans ahead of the outing, as talisman Ivan Toney is reported to have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19: while it has been 10 days since Ethan Pinnock tested positive. However, things on the injury front do not look as positive: as David Raya, Julian Jeanvier, Josh DaSilva and Kristoffer Ajer are all sidelined. Wednesday’s match is supposed to come too soon for Mathias Jørgensen, whose unavailability will pose a personnel problem for Thomas Frank at the back if Pinnock fails to play as well.
Their visitors will also have plenty of personnel missing, as up to seven players are likely to miss the outing due to coronavirus. While Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell are confirmed to have tested positive, Jorginho’s test results returned inconclusive as he was spotted in training on Monday. On the injury front, things have gone from bad to worse as the outing against Wolves saw Trevoh Chalobah and Hakim Ziyech limp off – Tuchel would hope that neither injury is serious. Kai Havertz is likely to start up front, while rotation can see Kepa Arrizabalaga, Saúl, Malang Sarr as well as the fit-again Mateo Kovacic take part.
WILL A DEPLETED CHELSEA MOTIVATE THE BEES TO PULL OFF AN UPSET?
Should this match go ahead as planned – something which is far from guaranteed during this time of short-notice postponements – then it will no doubt only add to Chelsea’s fury that they are continuing to be forced to play despite having a severely depleted squad. The Blues’ request to have their match against Wolves postponed was rejected, and the outing saw further injuries that could seriously hamper the strength of the team that Thomas Tuchel fields on Wednesday.
In a match that is likely to see Chelsea rotate more than they would like to, Brentford – who have had a period of time to rest amidst their coronavirus crisis – would fancy their chances to stun the Blues who have found themselves on the ropes lately. Brentford are the competition’s top scoring team with 12 goals so far, and they are likely to start the competition’s leading scorer upfront: no other player has scored more goals than Marcus Forss (5) in the Carabao Cup this season.
Forss along with Toney will hope to give the Blues’ rear guard all sorts of problems, as they will hope to drag the Blues to a third successive penalty shootout in this year’s competition. Chelsea have struggled to score goals of late, and the Brentford backline led by Pontus Jansson will hope to frustrate the Blues even more. An early goal is likely to put all sorts of pressure on the visitors, and ask them to dig themselves out of another hole: something they have struggled to do of late.
OR WILL THE BLUES PROVE TO HAVE ENOUGH FIREPOWER TO PROGRESS?
Despite missing a lot of major personnel, the Blues’ squad depth is one of the best in Europe: and even a second-string Chelsea line-up is likely to have a lot of firepower in their ranks. The return of Mateo Kovacic will bring some steel that Chelsea have been lacking in midfield of late, as he will hope to pull the strings in midfield in the likely absence of Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté in the starting line-up. Malang Sarr and Saúl Ñíguez are likely to be given another chance to impress.
Kai Havertz will start up front for the visitors, as the German is in good touch in the competition having scored four goals in his last two appearances in the Carabao Cup. In Reece James, the Blues boast of an in-form fullback who has ten goal involvements this season in all competitions: someone who will be raiding up and down the right flank, contributing to both attack and defense. Mason Mount is also set for a start, as the Chelsea midfielder looks to make it five goals in five domestic appearances after scoring in four back-to-back league games this season.
Even though the Blues have struggled to score of late, the sheer quality in their ranks means that Brentford can not afford to take the outing too lightly. Chelsea have quite a lot of match-winners in their squad who can turn any match on its head, and even with their recent struggles: it will be quite an upset if Brentford progress to the next round. The Blues will be hoping to prove a point in light of their recent woes, and a major semi-final will only encourage the team’s morale.
Brentford (3-5-2): Fernández; Goode, Jansson, Thompson; Roerslev, Ghoddos, Bidstrup, Jensen, Fosu-Henry; Toney, Forss
Chelsea (3-4-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Sarr; James, Saúl, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Barkley; Havertz