With Tottenham preparing to host Chelsea at Wembley in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final, Mauricio Pochettino will be able to see the glimmer, smell the noxious polish and hear the faint, seductive ring of silverware.
The League Cup might not be the most prestigious competition in English football, but winning it would at least end the yawn-worthy debate over whether or not Pochettino needs a trophy to make a true success of his time at Spurs. For the silverware fundamentalists – those who discount excellent performances, Champions League football and Spurs achieving far above the level of what went before – the third most sought-after domestic trophy could be the accolade which finally proves that Pochettino is up there with the best of them.
While ending the great silverware debate should be motivation enough for Pochettino to treat the first leg with due seriousness, he will also be aware of Spurs fans’ desperation to finally dump Chelsea out of a knockout competition. Tottenham haven’t overcome their fierce rivals in a domestic cup match since February 2008, when Juande Ramos’ side edged the Blues in the League Cup final.
Having come out on top in his first meeting with Maurizio Sarri back in November, Pochettino has good reason to feel confident. Sarri, meanwhile, will be acutely aware that there is no greater silverware fundamentalist than Roman Abramovich.
Kick off: Tuesday 8 January at 8pm, Wembley Stadium
TV channel: Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event, while subscribers can follow the game on the Sky Go app
Referee: Michael Oliver
Form: Tottenham WWLWW, Chelsea WDWWL
Odds: Tottenham 6/5, Draw 11/4, Chelsea 13/5
Team news and expected line-ups
Having both spent prolonged spells on the sidelines this season, Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele are back fit and could feature in some capacity for Spurs. Victor Wanyama remains out of action owing to recurrent knee problems, while Eric Dier is still recovering after undergoing surgery to remove his appendix in December.
Chelsea will be without Ruben Loftus-Cheek after he sustained a back injury in their FA Cup clash with Nottingham Forest at the weekend. Cesc Fabregas also seems unlikely to feature, given that he is apparently on the verge of completing a transfer to Monaco.
Read more: Chelsea transfer targets: 5 strikers Blues could realistically sign in January
In better news for the Blues, Olivier Giroud and Pedro could return from injury on Tuesday evening after recovering from short-term issues. Willian is still a doubt, despite Sarri stressing that the injury he picked up against Southampton last week was “not really very serious.”
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