There are going to be two big Carabao Cup matches that dominate the proceedings this week, as four of the traditional Premier League top six face-off. Chelsea entertain Manchester United, as Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aim to win their first trophies at their respective clubs. Although the latter has won competitions as a manager, a triumph in this competition would go a long way to convincing the doubters that he can compete at the highest level. The home side will be considered favourites given their recent form.
Chelsea have been one of the early successes of the Premier League season considering the very low expectations set following the appointment of Frank Lampard. A lot of pundits commented that a top-six finish would represent a good campaign for the rookie manager, considering the transfer ban and sale of Eden Hazard. However, it now looks like a top-four finish should be the very minimum achieved, due to the emergence of several talented young players. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all impressed, while Christian Pulisic showed his worth at the weekend. The Blues have developed a winning mentality during the course of the Roman Abramovich era and they will be looking to compete for a trophy again this season.
Manchester United have had a strange start to the season. They are a long way from competing for the Premier League title and the jury remains out on Solskjaer’s capabilities as a manager at the highest level. The past week has seen back-to-back victories, providing much needed positivity. If they manage to get a win over a rival, it could kick-start their season. Although this competition isn’t a priority, the coaching staff will understand the benefits of a victory at Stamford Bridge. They managed to beat the Blues during the opening weekend of the season with a convincing display. A similar performance would be well received on Wednesday.
Christian Pulisic became the youngest player to have scored a Premier League hat-trick for Chelsea, at the age of 21.
Manchester United have become the first Premier League team to reach 2000 goals in the competition. A landmark that should serve as a reminder of the size of the club.
Michy Batshuayi has had a frustrating couple of years in England. There have been some highs, including a title-clinching goal in 2017, but the majority of his Chelsea career has come as an impact substitute. His qualities in this role are obvious, as shown by his record this season. Last week, he scored a crucial winning goal against Ajax to put his team into a strong position in the Champions League. It is invaluable to have a player like the Belgian, who can make an impact in a matter of minutes. Across the Premier League and Champions League, he has scored twice in just 64 minutes this season. This underlines his value to the club. However, he turned 26 at the beginning of the month and he will want regular first-team football. Last season, he scored five times in 757 minutes for Crystal Palace. He added quality to the squad and showed that he could score regularly in the Premier League. The former Marseille striker would have hoped that the transfer ban would open up opportunities for him at Stamford Bridge, but the emergence of Tammy Abraham has limited his game-time. This cup tie offers a great chance for the striker to prove his worth as a starter.
There is little room for manoeuvre for Solskjaer, due to the lack of squad depth available to him. It will be a challenge to balance the squad if they remain in all four competitions. Daniel James has emerged as a key figure for the Norweigan manager, following his summer arrival from Swansea City. Few would have expected him to secure a starting position, but he has managed that and has been one of the most consistent players in the first team. The Welshman has contributed three goals and two assists in the Premier League. He will be hoping that he can continue to cause problems for opposition teams, as he continues to develop at Old Trafford. During the opening day win over Chelsea, the 21-year-old scored a debut goal and created a threat, due to his pace and direct approach. There will be space to exploit in the final third and James could prove to be key if the visitors are to take three points.
Michy Batshuayi, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Pedro and Willy Cabellero are all expected to start to the home side. Billy Gilmour could also be given an opportunity to impress. Ross Barkley may be back to feature. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Antonio Rudiger remain on the sidelines.
Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic are not likely to be fit to feature for the visitors. Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly remain on the treatment table. Jesse Lingard, Dan James and Marcus Rashford are all expected to start
It will be a huge victory for either side if they manage to win and progress to the next round. Manchester United would benefit more from the win, but Chelsea seem the more likely winners based on recent form. They have been excellent and the likes of Michy Batshuayi, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi will be desperate to impress, with all three likely starters. Frank Lampard has shown that players will be given a chance if they perform well and that overarching policy from the top will lead to better performances in cup matches with weakened teams. A home victory looks to be a smart tip for this one.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United