The Capital One Cup continues tonight with the Premier League champions travelling to the West Midlands to take on League One high flyers Walsall in the third round. Mourinho’s men have had an indifferent start to the season and, prior to a four goal demolition of Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the Champions League last week and a controversial victory against Arsenal, many were questioning if they were falling apart at the seams.
Walsall have exploded into life this season with fantastic league form which has seen Dean Smith’s men sitting pretty in second in the third tier of English football with just one league loss, coming at the hands of Bury in what could only be described as a robust defensive performance from the Manchester based side.
Walsall vs Chelsea – How The Saddlers could pinch a win
Their cup form has been one of relative triumph. A disappointing defeat at the hands of Morecambe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy disappointed supporters who had dreamed of a repeat of last season, where The Saddlers battled their way to a first appearance at Wembley Stadium. Now they’ve set their sights on a run in the Capital One Cup. Two victories over Championship opposition, Nottingham Forest and Brighton and Hove Albion, has earned them a shot at the 2012 Champions League winners and, although Walsall versus Chelsea was not deemed big enough for the Sky cameras, it has drawn in a potential sell out crowd, and the fan-dubbed “Ginger Mourinho” will have to use every shred of on advantage to mastermind a famous victory.
This being said here are the five key factors that Walsall must be taken advantage of in order to progress to the fourth round.
1 – Home advantage
Home advantage, when competing against a team who are considerable favourites, is something that lower league clubs have thrived upon since the inception of cup competitions and for Walsall this must be a fundamental part of their game plan. A sell out crowd is expected at the Banks’ Stadium, and Smith will be hoping for a potentially hostile environment caused by an extremely partisan crowd. To unnerve the megastars of Chelsea through atmosphere is tapping into football psychology 101, however if a misfiring Falcao is jeered throughout it may in turn effect his performance.
Atmosphere is something that is out of Smith’s control but the classic mind games that have paid a pivotal role in many of the cup giant killings are firmly within his grasp. No toilet paper or lightbulbs in the dressing room, turning off the warm water and cranking the temperature up to a uncomfortable level have all been reported as tactics widely used across many sports and with the dressing rooms at the Banks’ not exactly the most spacious, the luxury Chelsea’s superstars and their accompanying entourage are expecting could not be further from what awaits them just off the M6.
2- The ex-player syndrome
In Milan Lalkovic, Walsall possess a man who was up until fairly recently on the books at Stamford Bridge. Although he never turned out in a competitive fixture for The Blues, the script is set for the time-honoured footballing tradition of an ex-player sinking a former club and with cup football as unpredictable as any, the Hollywood movie style rise of the underdog could come into play.
3 – Chelsea’s weakened team
As is almost a given, unless you are Louis Van Gaal, cup football has been used by Premier League powerhouses to bleed in youngsters and give a rest to their main assets who need protecting for the use in prioritised competitions and in this game it will be no different for Chelsea. Wholesale changes are unlikely with the starting XI most likely still to be littered with internationals, who earn more in a week than their opposition do annually. Be that as it may, the lack of appearances for those stars may come into play, John Terry has been confirmed to be making an appearance, as has Falcao, and with neither notching up many minutes over recent weeks, rustiness could be a big factor in the tie.
4 – Bradford in the back of their mind
Walsall will take heart from Chelsea’s last game against League One opposition. Bradford travelled to Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup and recorded a victory that will forever be intertwined in FA Cup folklore. The loss to Bradford will no doubt be in the back of the minds of the players who were felled that day or will be completely dispelled in an arrogance often manifested in under estimation of the opposition. Either of these mindsets would suit Walsall perfectly.
The Saddlers have nothing to lose, they are expected to be on the end of a rout. A victory would be ranked as one their clubs greatest, rivalling their most famous League Cup performance, an away win at Highbury against Arsenal back in 1983-84.
5 – Grit, determination and roughing up
Jose Mourinho has been known to have had detailed reports of opponents style of play before games however Walsall may have to sacrifice their usual passing style of play coupled with attacking wing-backs in favour of the age old strategy of blood and thunder football in order to galvanise the crowd.
The majority of masterminding a victory when the odds are land sliding towards your opposition is not an easy task. Unnerving players who are used to being protected by referees through physical tactics is something that Mourinho employs himself, a certain Diego Costa springs to mind.
Naturally this must be within the laws of the game, to lose a player and be outnumbered would be catastrophic to any game plan, but blood and thunder football still has a place in modern day football and for Walsall to employ it tonight would be a smart move.
In conclusion, the likelihood of victory would obviously lie within the performances of key individuals. The chance to topple a giant does not come around often for clubs such as Walsall and the players must take it within their stride if they wish to be the David to Chelsea’s Goliath, but employing a combination of the aforementioned factors would go a long way in being victorious and progressing into the hat for the fourth round.