Chelsea vs. Newcastle: A League Cup Preview

Let me start by saying this: I care about the League Cup. Probably more than you do, if the things I have been reading out there in the blogosphere and on Twitter are any indication. The prevailing attitude seems to be that since Newcastle are back in the Premiership, their sole focus ought to be staying up. This is certainly not a goal to be taken lightly, and I can certainly appreciate the supporters who place the Premiership on a pedestal above all other competitions. After all, this fanbase is one that knows all too well the consequences of not taking care of business for just one season.

However, I just cannot shake the notion that any game played in-season is somehow less important than another. No, the match played tomorrow will not affect the top flight table one bit - but you have to understand that confidence and form are not things to be trifled with. Even at the professional level, much of this game is played between the ears, and there have been many teams in the past that have believed that they can turn their form on and off at will, much to their peril. Teams that abuse this practice of picking and choosing which games to get up for typically do not succeed at the very highest level.

Now, does this mean that I think Chris Hughton should play every single one of Saturday's Starting XI tomorrow? No. But I don't buy for one second the idea that the supporters should somehow treat this match any differently. Here we are, on the eve of playing arguably the best club team in Europe right now, and yes, they may play several scrubs, but this match should be something to look forward to. Instead, the feeling among the fanbase is an overwhelming ho-hum, "I don't care if we win, just want them to show well"...and that's a shame. Do you realize that this team has never in its history won the League Cup? I want that to change. Don't you?

This is a good team, in my opinion. They're currently tied for 6th in the table. Imagine for just a second that they were able to stay in that approximate position for the balance of the season, and with some strokes of luck they end in one of the Top 4 places, just one season removed from relegation. That would be quite an accomplishment! But then what? We'd get to next season and there would be a ton of bellyaching about having to play extra matches in Europe. To me, this is the exact wrong attitude. Yes, placing well in the table is important, but at the end of the day, I want to see our lads on the right side of the score line, regardless of which competition they're playing in.


You mean to say you don't want this?

Ok...having said all that, there is a match tomorrow, like it or not. Who should Hughton play? In defense, I like Sol in for Williamson, who has played way too loose for my tastes the last couple of weeks, with Perch playing since he'll be sitting on Saturday anyway. I also put Jose Enrique in so he can continue to develop chemistry with Tiote and Ben Arfa. I leave the midfield alone for the most part, with Routledge and Jonas using this match as a chance for redemption in Hughton's eyes. Hatem Ben Arfa gets more PT at the high level, and Nile Ranger, who has been campaigning for a starting spot this week, in place of Andy Carroll, who is reportedly not 100% (and sure didn't play that way in Goodison Park).

|-------------Krul--------------|
|--Perch---Sol----Colo--Enrique-|
|-------Barton-----Tiote--------|
|--Routledge----------Jonas-----|
|-------------HBA---------------|
|-----------Ranger--------------|

This, I believe, should satisfy those who don't want to risk injury to key players while also not giving up on the match from the get-go.

I expect Chelsea to play mostly subs, and I expect them to still come away with a comfortable victory, perhaps 3-1. One thing's for sure - if they lose, I'll take it just as hard as if they lost to Stoke on Saturday. So sue me.


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