Chelsea’s Journey to the EFL Cup Final

Chelsea will attempt to win their first piece of silverware under Mauricio Pochettino on Sunday afternoon when they square off against Liverpool in the EFL Cup final.

In recent games, the Blues have showcased some of their best form under the Argentine, beating Aston Villa and Crystal Palace away from home before earning a spirited 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. However, the contest against Liverpool comes just three-and-a-half weeks after the Merseyside giants thrashed Pochettino’s side at Anfield in the Premier League, and with Chelsea needing to lift the trophy to secure a return to Europe for 2024-25.

Second Round: AFC Wimbledon

Throughout the campaign, Pochettino has stressed the importance of trying to win a domestic cup competition, yet he made the decision to include the likes of Bashir Humphreys, Diego Moreira and Mason Burstow for their second-round clash with AFC Wimbledon. Within 19 minutes, it appeared that Pochettino may come to regret leaving senior players out of his starting lineup as their League Two opponents took a surprise lead from the penalty spot through James Tilley. However, Noni Madueke crucially scored a spot kick of his own just before the half-time whistle, before Enzo Fernandez netted 18 minutes from time to take Chelsea through to the last 32, where they would be joined by the Premier League’s European representatives.

Third Round: Brighton & Hove Albion

Given the backstory of Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion’s business with regards to managers and players, being drawn together at this stage of the tournament had a bit of added spice, and former Brighton players Robert Sanchez, Levi Colwill and, most notably, Moises Caicedo all lined up for the Blues. Unlike in the previous tie, Pochettino went largely full-strength, and it ultimately paid off as Nicolas Jackson scored the only goal of the game five minutes into the second half.

Fourth Round: Blackburn Rovers

Having received one of the toughest draws in round three, Chelsea were provided with one of the more favourable ties in the last 16, an inconsistent Blackburn Rovers side that often made alterations for the EFL Cup. Chelsea were able to make relatively light work of their Championship opponents, with Benoit Badiashile putting the Blues ahead on what was his first appearance of the season after injury. With Raheem Sterling doubling Chelsea’s lead before the hour mark, Pochettino was able to rest players during the final third of the contest as they set up a clash with Newcastle United, again at their West London home.

Quarter-final: Newcastle United

If Badiashile enjoyed his previous EFL Cup appearance, that would not be the case in this tie as his mistake allowed Callum Wilson to run through on goal and put Newcastle United ahead after 16 minutes. Chelsea also had to deal with the 32nd-minute withdrawal of Fernandez and they toiled in the final third throughout as the game entered added-on time. However, a mistake by Kieran Trippier at the back post allowed Mykhaylo Mudryk to coolly convert into the far bottom corner from 10 yards, setting up a penalty shootout for a place in the semi-finals. At the same time as Chelsea were impeccable from the spot, Trippier and Matt Ritchie each missed for the Magpies, sparking jubilation in the Stamford Bridge stands as Chelsea bounced back from several untimely defeats in the Premier League, one of those by a 4-1 scoreline at Newcastle.

Semi-final: Middlesbrough

Chelsea would have wanted to avoid Liverpool and Fulham in the draw, and that is how it panned out with Middlesbrough all that stood in their way of an appearance in the final. The first leg being staged at the Riverside Stadium also played into Chelsea’s favour, yet the Championship outfit would take the lead on aggregate through Hayden Hackney’s close-range finish and Cole Palmer squandering three clear-cut chances before the break. Although Boro defended resolutely in the North East, some of their play at the back in the reverse fixture was calamitous, Chelsea ruthlessly taking advantage to lead 4-0 by half time. While the fifth and sixth goals would not come until the 77th and 81th minute respectively, Chelsea were never in danger of losing their aggregate advantage, and a Jonny Howson own goal and efforts from Fernandez, Axel Disasi, Palmer (2) and Madueke booked yet another EFL Cup final showdown with Liverpool.

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