Chelsea kick off their EFL Cup campaign this week when they host Nottingham Forest. The Championship side have made a solid start to the season, but can they pull off a major shock at the home of the champions? The Blues made an early exit this competition last term, just as they started the winning streak with bought them the title. They could have added the EFL Cup to that collection with that run, but can they make amends when they return to the competition this week? After a run to the FA Cup final last season, a quick return to Wembley would be a bonus for the champions. Could they add to their 2015 win in this competition?
It’s hard to see this being a priority for Antonio Conte, the Italian has already bemoaned the number of games his side have to play in September. Having made plenty of changes for their first clash in the Champions League, the Italian is likely to switch out a few first team stars for this clash. Given that Forest have already seen off Premier League opposition this season in this competition, that could be a risk. Will we see the Championship side triumph at Stamford Bridge, or a straightforward win for the champions?
Chelsea’s team against Qarabag should give us a clue of what direction Conte will go in here. The Blues have added strength in depth to the side which won the title last term, and their win in Europe suggests they can compete across all fronts. They rested the likes of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard, and we should see the same thing happen against Forest, though Hazard might start after starting on the bench in the 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Sunday. This trophy comes bottom of Chelsea’s list, and they’re facing a Championship side. Surely we will see a few changes, with Willy Caballero likely to feature in goal for this clash. Others who could feature are Michy Batshuayi, Davide Zappacosta and Charly Musonda.
Forest may be facing Premier League opposition, but gone are the days when this was a big occasion. Heading to a top flight side probably feels like a chore in the EFL Cup, when so many Championship sides kick off the season aiming for a place among the elite. Forest are at least in play-off contention this term, so there’s little reason for them to go all out this week. Expect plenty of changes from the away side in this tie.
Nottingham Forest Form
Forest have made a solid start to the new season, taking 12 points from a possible 21 in a very competitive league. Having beaten relegation on the final day of the Championship season last time out, they’re clearly off to a much better start this time around. Recent defeats to Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday have shaken them, but Forest should be looking forward to testing themselves against a Premier League side.
Of course, Forest have already tasted a giant-killing this season, thanks to their 3-2 win over Newcastle United at St James’ Park. That came in round two of this competition, meaning they’ve now won four of their last five in the League Cup. They’ve also managed five wins in their last six away, with their only loss coming at Tottenham in 2014.
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest Head to Head
With just one meeting this century, it’s fair to say there’s little recent record between the sides. Forest were regulars in the Premier League during the early years, so there are quite a few clashes in the late 90s. Given that the former European champions haven’t been back in the top flight since, meetings have been few and far between. Will we see a repeat of the Blues’ 3-0 FA Cup win 10 years ago?
- Chelsea 3-0 Nottingham Forest, Jan 2007
- Forest 1-3 Chelsea, Feb 1999
- Chelsea 2-1 Forest, Sept 1998
- Forest 2-0 Chelsea, Jan 1997
- Chelsea 1-1 Forest, Sept 1996
- Over 3.5 goals – Evens with Coral
- Both teams to score – 23/17 with Ladbrokes
Chelsea are unsurprisingly heavy favourites to take the points in this game. It’s hard to see Forest closing the gap, with the visitors priced as the 18/1 outsiders with Betfred to take a win. Chelsea’s team selection may give the away side a chance here, but we struggle to see anything but a home win. The Blues will want to avoid an upset, which could derail their season just as it got back on track. Given Antonio Conte’s relentless attitude, we can’t see him allowing a cup competition to pass his players by, we expect the Blues to go out fighting for a place in the next round.
Of course, we saw against Qarabag that players are playing for a starting spot. The fringe players were looking to make an impact and get more minutes, which is a situation Chelsea haven’t really had in a number of years. Their squad is growing, and we expect that to pay off when Forest come to visit. These players aren’t going to accept a 2-0, they’ll keep pushing forward like they did in the Champions League. We see the Blues pushing for another big win, so we’re backing over 3.5 goals in this match at evens with Coral.
We can also see plenty of goals here because we think Forest can score themselves. While Chelsea beat Qarabag to nil, their clean sheet came thanks to some good fortune. Their were big chances missed, and we think that the likely absence of Courtois makes it easier for Forest to get a goal. The visitors scored in eight of their first nine games, and we expect them to follow that form up with another goal After hitting three at St James’ Park, one against a weakened Chelsea seems very possible. With the visitors likely to have chances, we like both teams to score in this one at 23/17 with Ladbrokes.