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EFL CUP:  Chelsea Vs Southampton – Three things to look for in EFL Cup Fourth Round

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It has been a month since Chelsea played Southampton , but thanks to the EFL Cup we would get to see the two teams face each other.

Fresh off their huge win against Norwich, the Blues will likely rotate some as they pursue the first feasible trophy of the season. We would be looking at a couple of things fans should look out for in this nail-biting tie. 

#1 How important will Thomas Tuchel take this competition?

The fourth round of the EFL Cup is where things tend to get interesting for big teams. Chelsea already had a dangerous fixture against Aston Villa, so they should be ready for whatever Southampton throws at them.

Against Villa, it is fair to say that Tuchel revolved pretty heavily, going so far as to try out some 4-3-3/4-4-2 shape. Tuchel is willing to use cups for rotation and his side needs it.

That being said,The Blues already have the biggest cup in club football under Tuchel, but an EFL Cup in late February/early March will only put more spring  into his team’s sales.

Of course, there is another question that will likely come up: How would they fare at the Club World Cup?. A date still hasn’t been set, but it is almost guaranteed that the EFL Cup will be the competition to make way. That occurred to Liverpool when they had to leave an academy side for the EFL Cup while their first team was away for the Club World Cup. That’s not guaranteed to be the case but it is certainly a possibility.

If Tuchel does take the EFL Cup seriously, it is entirely likely the Blues will be held between a rock and a hard place later.

Southampton certainly will take the match seriously even if Chelsea doesn’t. The Blues have plenty of ammunition in reserve to get past Southampton but they will potentially prove a tricky test like Aston Villa last round

#2 Would Tuchel experiment with this squad?

Efl cup Chelsea team

Chelsea has stuck to three at the back for virtually the entirety of Tuchel’s tenure. The last EFL Cup game against Villa is one of the few times anything different has been used as the Blues used some kind of 4-3-3/4-4-2 hybrid shape.

Even with “four at the back”, Reece James repeatedly stayed lower, giving it more of a three at the back impression at times.

If Tuchel is to play with formations in an identical way as he did at Paris Saint-Germain, that is what it will look like. The formation will dim the lines between several ideas, constantly altering the way to play.

The Blues have, at most, seen this with 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 variants in the league. Tuchel was happy exploring against Aston Villa last round, so it isn’t a stretch to speculate he would do the same this round against Southampton… Academy day, part two?

Norwich wasn’t planned as one, but it very quickly turned into an academy day for Chelsea. Ben Chilwell and an own goal (which really could have been a second for Callum Hudson-Odoi), Cobham reigned supreme.

With injuries piling on a bit, it wouldn’t be the worst time in the world to save a bench spot or three for some of the academy’s top talent.

Xavier Mbuyamba made the bench last time out, though he didn’t come on. Others that are certainly due for at least a bench appearance include Harvey Vale and Bryan Fiabema. Perhaps a bigger leap would be Edwin Andersson and Jude Soonsup-Bell from the u18s.

Given Chelsea’s depth at striker is missing currently, it necessarily wouldn’t be the worst idea to look for Fiabema or Soonsup-Bell as striker alternatives, even if only from the bench.

Vale and Andersson would be more winger-like choices and that wouldn’t be a bad idea to have on the bench either.

It reduces to how seriously Tuchel takes this match overall and how he sees it progress. Mbuyamba may have come on against Villa last time but the game didn’t develop in a way that he could find a spot.

In this situation, the game would have to be going very well for any of the aforementioned academy guys to get in over some combination of Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech, Ross Barkley, or Callum Hudson-Odoi from either the start or the bench.

Still, if Tuchel is looking to test with formations and rest some key figures, the academy is there for a chance.

It’s not quite the same circumstance as it was against Norwich but Cobham is there to be used, not thought about. This match could be a great opportunity to give someone a debut and see what they can demand.

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