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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea League Cup Preview: Spurs face an uphill battle in the second leg

A rough first leg put Tottenham in a 2-0 hole in the semifinals.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur rolled into the League Cup semifinals with a tough task, and after one leg the endeavor does not look any easier. The only benefit is that Wednesday’s contest will be played at home, otherwise Chelsea enters with plenty of confidence and a cautious, but beneficial two-goal advantage.

Last week’s match was pretty terrible, with the home side certainly deserving to come out ahead. Spurs looked awful up and down the pitch, particularly struggling against the Chelsea midfield. As a result, traffic was fairly one-way and put plenty of pressure on the Tottenham backline, which probably could have fared even worse than it did. Meanwhile, the offense yielded zero shots.

There are still 90 minutes left in the tie (at least) and the advantage of being at home, but Antonio Conte’s squad has its work cut out for it. A heavily rotated side was pretty terrible on Sunday, but the regulars subbed on to save the day. Hopefully those key figures can step up again on Wednesday.

Tottenham Hotspur (0) vs. Chelsea (2)

Date: Wednesday, January 12
Time: 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: ESPN+ (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

Conte absolutely must utilize a stronger midfield than last week’s Oliver Skipp-Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg duo. Tanguy Ndombele brought some improvement as a substitute, but after his charades against Morecambe it looks unlikely that he will ever take the pitch for Spurs again, so someone else will have to bring some presence in the middle of the park. At the very least there needs to be another body who is willing to help out defensively.

Losing Heung-Min Son really hurts for this match, as well as next week’s fixtures against Arsenal, Leicester, and Chelsea again. After generating zero offense last week, somehow the attack needs to come alive in the second leg. Not really sure how that happens, but at least the squad knows the situation heading into the match and can throw itself forward.

Three themes

  1. Stamford Bridge rarely brings good results, so coming home could bring a nice boost. The officiating was pretty lean last time, so a stricter referee might prevent Spurs from being constantly mauled with the ball. Starting strong and gaining some momentum is a must.
  2. The semifinals do feature extra time, unlike previous rounds, which is probably Spurs’ path to victory given the two-goal deficit. Tottenham coincidentally advanced past Chelsea in last year’s Round of 16 on penalties after Erik Lamela equalized late in regular time in North London.
  3. Should Tottenham come out ahead, it will not be known who comes out of the other semifinal for another week. Covid issues pushed both legs of Liverpool-Arsenal back, meaning the first semifinal will strangely be finished before the second one even begins.