All you need to know: Chelsea vs Blackburn Rovers
Rovers’ return to Stamford Bridge is their first in this competition for 26 years. The Lancastrians’ only previous League Cup visit, in October 1997, ended in a penalty shoot-out victory for Ruud Gullit’s side.
As five-time winners of the League Cup and finalists in 2019 and 2022, Chelsea have progressed from 23 of our previous 32 fourth round ties (losing nine, most recently after a shoot-out with Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in 2020).
Another four of the ten remaining top-flight contestants are guaranteed to exit the midweek trophy-chase after a quartet of all-Premier League ties. Like Fulham at Ipswich, Chelsea face Championship opposition. The Blues, London’s first and most recent winners of this competition, are up against a Danish coach for the second game running, having fallen to Thomas Frank’s Brentford at the weekend.
Back in the 2021 Champions League group stage, Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Malmo side were beaten 4-0 by Chelsea at the Bridge, and 1-0 in Sweden. As the former Feyenoord and Newcastle striker also lost three times to the Blues as a player, he may well have hustled his compatriot for tips.
Tonight’s victors will secure a place in the last eight of English football’s quickest ticket to major silverware and a UEFA berth: the winner of the February final earns a place in the Europa Conference League play-off round.
Mauricio Pochettino is bidding to become the third Blues boss to claim the League Cup trophy during their first season. His illustrious forebears were Gianluca Vialli, in 1997/98, and Mourinho in 2004/05.
How round four was reached
AFC Wimbledon 2-1
Chelsea have won 12 of the last 15 meetings with Blackburn Rovers in all competitions, and are unbeaten against them in normal time since 2006.
Mauricio Pochettino has hinted he will play plenty (but not all) of his regulars against Championship visitors Blackburn. Captain Reece James is a confirmed starter and the likes of goalie Djordje Petrovic, Benoit Badiashile, Ian Maatsen, or Lesley Ugochukwu may replace those who’ve had a heavier recent workload.
Chelsea have lost successive second halves at Stamford Bridge, and only scored twice in the final half-hour of games across all competitions this season, home and away. That apparent loss of durability as games progress will be a concern to the Blues’ coach, though his plans are constantly hampered by half the squad being injured or half-fit.
As in previous rounds, Poch is likely to find bench space for Academy players, such as attacking midfielder Alex Matos (a league debutant at Fulham).
Opposition scout – Blackburn
Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Blackburn play fluent, passing football, and won comfortably across west London last month at QPR. They are not by nature, though, one of those well-drilled defensive teams who have succeeded at the Bridge recently by sitting deep and riding their luck.
The 12th-placed Rovers earned their place in the Carabao Cup’s last 16 by scoring four or more in each of the previous three rounds, but they also concede a lot. The only Championship clubs with a worse goal difference are the bottom four, including the struggling Rs.
On Saturday they were beaten 1-0 at home by Swansea and it could have been worse (with two visitors’ goals disallowed) before equalising openings were spurned at the end.
Our own Bashir Humphreys was part of the Swansea side that won at Ewood Park on Saturday
Players to look out for include 19-year-old academy graduate Adam Wharton, whose passing and vision are expressed as a box-to-box midfielder, and leading marksman Sammie Szmodics. Teenage midfielder Andy Moran was part of a visiting Brighton team that beat Chelsea U21s in August before moving on loan to Lancashire.
Sondre Tronstad is solid in the midfield holding role but Rovers’ defence, not bursting with pace, is susceptible to passes in behind, and not totally at ease playing out from the back. They have conceded nine goals in the last quarter-hour of league games while lodging one in reply, losing five points as a result.