I was not born in the 1970s to witness the epic Chelsea vs Leeds match in the FA Cup final replay. However, the vibes, bad blood, and intense rivalry can be felt even today. The stakes are much higher now partly because Chelsea will be facing Leeds after a gap of more than eight years. The presence of Rafa Benitez and Neil Warnock on the touchline also adds to the spice, but it is really miniscule when you compare the rivalry between the two sets of fans.
It is going to be Leeds vs Chelsea, Ken Bates vs Roman Abramovich, Neil Warnock vs Rafa Benitez and there can be only one word in the dictionary – epic.
The team not only come on the back of a gruelling trip from Japan, but the weight of disappointment in the final of the Club World Cup also hangs around the players. These are in addition to the constant matches that have been played since the arrival of Benitez. The team has been playing on an average two games per week, and it will be interesting to see how the team will start the crucial Christmas fixture list.
There can be no better way of putting behind the disappointment of losing a cup final than by beating Leeds United on their home patch. Benitez is expected to name a strong starting line-up especially with the knowledge that there is a semi-final opportunity waiting as well.
True, the League Cup is nowhere near significant compared to the likes of the Premier League and the Champions League, but the prospect of winning any trophy gives happiness when you get to the semi-final stage.
Benitez will be welcoming the striker Daniel Sturridge into contention, while Oscar is also likely to be fresh after not being part of his plans on a regular basis. John Terry, though, will be missing for this epic encounter, but the return of Lampard is a boost for the club. Torres missed a number of crucial opportunities against Corinthians in the final. It will be interesting to see if he will retain his place ahead of Sturridge.
Rafa Benitez’s views ahead of the match:
“Sometimes I decide to change the team and play different players because we have so many games, and certain players need a rest. You have an opportunity in these type of games.
“If you don’t play well or win games for two or three months it becomes difficult, not just for me but for any manager.”
Juan Mata on facing Leeds:
“We want to win this competition as well. When we arrive in England we have to be ready for the Leeds game.
“We know the history between Chelsea and Leeds. They are always difficult games, talking with the supporters, but we want to play and if possible to win. Frank Lampard told me about it, from the 1970s.”