Under fire manager Maurizio Sarri leads a stuttering Chelsea side against rampant Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Saturday.
This is against a backdrop of rumours that the Blues are searching for Sarri’s replacement, with England’s assistant manager, Steve Holland, the latest name being mentioned.
City won the competition last year and will be looking to defend their title for the first time, while a final win would ease the pressure on Sarri and Chelsea.
The game comes two weeks after their last meeting in the Premier League, in which Manchester City ran away with a 6-0 victory, but City manager Pep Guardiola does not think the game will have a bearing on today’s result.
“I don’t like to play the same team in a short period of time when you have beaten them before,” he said.
“They are incredibly professional players, they are proud and bright and will do extra. We are going to play the type of game you have to play in a final and try to win the title.
“Of course it is not the most important title of the season but once we are here in an amazing stadium against a top side, we want to prepare to win.”
Chelsea made it into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday, but Sarri says his side cannot make the same sluggish start as they did against Malmo at Stamford Bridge.
“It would be a disaster, of course. I think that we played the first 30 minutes without confidence. Nervous. We were unable to move the ball very fast. We were in trouble on their pressing. Then a little bit better in the last 15 minutes of the first half and then, after the first goal, very well.”
John Stones (groin), Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Gabriel Jesus (hamstring) are doubtful for today’s final and Guardiola refused to confirm if Arijanet Muric – who has played in goal in the previous rounds – would start ahead of Ederson.
There are also question marks over who will be Chelsea’s goalkeeper at Wembley, with Kepa Arrizabalaga missing Thursday’s Europa League game with a hamstring injury. Should he be sidelined again, former Man City goalkeeper Willy Caballero will deputise in his place.
Pedro and Davide Zappacosta have also been suffering with illness this week and are doubtful.
Both teams are set to face-off in a League Cup final for the first time – both sides have won the trophy five times previously, with only Liverpool winning it more often (eight times).
Chelsea have already lost three times at Wembley this season, losing in the Community Shield against Manchester City and in the Premier League and League Cup semi-final against Spurs.
Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus has scored more goals than any other player in this season’s League Cup (5) – but all five have come against League One sides (one v Oxford, four v Burton).
Should one, or more, of Manchester City trio David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero score, they could become the first players to score in back-to-back League Cup finals since Didier Drogba did so for Chelsea in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
Sergio Aguero has scored 13 goals in 16 appearances in all competitions against Chelsea for Manchester City, only scoring more often against Newcastle United for the Citizens (15).