Chelsea Opinion: Blues can replace Eden Hazard with Lille’s Nicolas Pepe
The Blues are said to be targeting boyhood Chelsea fan Nicolas Pepe from Lille as they look towards a future without Eden Hazard to leave them from the front.
It is suggested that the winger would cost the Blues around £70m to bring to Stamford Bridge but with the Belgian’s move to Real Madrid being touted to be a big-money switch, Chelsea shouldn’t have too much trouble in reinvesting their finances in another player.
Chelsea signed Eden Hazard from the same team that Nicolas Pepe currently plays for – LOSC Lille. The deal cost the Blues a bargain £32m all the way back in 2012 – a price that would be a complete joke for a player as talented as the Belgian is in today’s footballing market.
Since making the huge step from the Ligue 1 up to the Premier League, Hazard’s improvement as a player has been meteoric. His pace and dribbling skills are unmatched and he has certainly developed into one of Europe’s highest-rated players.
His influence on this Chelsea side can’t even be quantified as without his unbelievable exploits on a weekly basis, Chelsea wouldn’t be anywhere close to the top of the table, let alone actually fighting for the title in itself. He took no time settling with the football in England and was an instant hit at Stamford Bridge.
Considering that the magnitude of his sheer quality was unknown at the time, the improvement he showed since making the switch is bound to fill Chelsea fans with tons of confidence that if they do go on to sign Nicolas Pepe in the summer, the Ivorian will produce the goods in the royal blue kit.
While the Lille link is obviously going to play a fairly important part if this transfer is to go through, Chelsea’s desperation to make as many signings as possible will also come into the picture. With a potential transfer ban looming and Eden Hazard’s departure looking more and more likely everyday, its about time Chelsea look for direct replacements.
Nicolas Pepe has all the right attributes to come in and do a job for the Blues as his pace and dribbling abilities will suit Maurizio Sarri’s style of play. Young and still able to put in amazing amounts of work, he seems like the kind of player who would prosper in a setup as attacking as Chelsea’s.
His movement down the flanks are bound to cause the Premier League wing-backs troubles as his blistering pace is often too much to handle. His finishing has also turned into one of his strengths as he has proven to the fans through the course of the current Ligue 1 season.
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The 23-year-old has scored a whopping 19 goals and notched up a further 13 assists from his 32 league appearances. These numbers are the sign of a top quality player who is now ready to perform at the highest level and that’s why he can be Chelsea’s best option to replace Eden Hazard with.
5 of the biggest upsets in the 2018/19 season of the Premier League
2018-19 Premier League rewind: A look back at the 5 of the biggest upsets
There was hardly any shortage of drama, excitement and hype in the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, with some mesmerizing individual performances, sheer moments of magic, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and a see-saw title race producing yet another enthralling season of football.
As a matter of fact, it was goals galore all throughout the campaign, as the grand total of 1072 goals made the 2018-19 season the most prolific ever in the history of the Premier League.
In the end, Man City successfully managed to defend their Premier League title, as Pep Guardiola’s side broke Liverpool’s hearts and ensured that the Reds’ pursuit of a first domestic title since 1990 ultimately ended in failure.
The final day of the campaign ended in ecstasy for the fans at Etihad, while those at Anfield would have felt the pain of falling short by a solitary point despite a valiant effort from their team.
We all know that the Premier League is famous for producing plenty of thrills and spills, which is probably the reason why it is widely acclaimed as the most competitive league in the world.
When we speak about competition, it is expected that the league would also have a touch of unpredictability to it.
The 2018/19 season, indeed, produced some massive upsets, where the lesser teams defied the odds and took everybody by surprise to shock the heavyweights operating in the upper reaches of the competition.
Surprisingly, winners Man City were also at the receiving end of three such upsets; one each at the hands of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
It is true that we have a definitive top-six in the Premier League these days but we witnessed last season that the mid-table teams and even the relegation-threatened sides are more than capable of pulling off surprises on their day. With that in mind, let us revisit those instances when teams defied belief to register the unlikeliest of victories.
1. Leicester City vs Man City- Boxing Day
Leicester City were enduring a rather inconsistent campaign under Claude Puel but the Foxes came into the game high on confidence following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their previous outing.
Man City, on the other hand, arrived at the King Power Stadium on the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, although Pep Guardiola’s side were the outright favourites to claim all three points against Leicester.
Unsurprisingly, Leicester defended in numbers and got bodies behind the ball as Man City stamped their authority in the opening quarter of the game.
It didn’t take long for them to open the scoring though, as Sergio Aguero played Bernardo Silva behind the Foxes’ backline to set up the Portuguese for an easy finish.
However, Leicester responded within just four minutes, as Jamie Vardy’s cross found the run of Marcus Albrighton, who outsmarted Fabian Delph with his clever movement and beat Ederson to score the equaliser. Well, you cannot keep Jamie Vardy out of the action, can you?
Aguero lost his footing numerous times in the final third quite uncharacteristically and Man City failed to score the winner despite enjoying a lot of possession. James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury called Ederson into action a few times but the scores stayed level until the very end.
Some late drama saw Ricardo Pereira fire home a pile driver from just inside the edge of the box to hand Leicester a 2-1 advantage before Man City’s Fabian Delph received the marching orders from the referee.
The game was an eye-opener to all the fans who would have thought that Man City’s loss against Palace was a mere bad day at the office.
2. Man City vs Crystal Palace – 22nd December
Man City had only lost a single game in the Premier League season, which was against Chelsea, when they played host to Crystal Palace at the Etihad on 22nd December and with Roy Hodgson’s side struggling in the lower reaches of the table, the Citizens were the clear favourites.
Pep Guardiola’s side kept Palace under the cosh in the opening stages of the game and Fabian Delph’s cross was headed in by Ilkay Gundogan, who gave City the lead in the 27th minute.
Palace, however, found an instant reply as Wilfried Zaha’s dazzling run followed by McArthur’s clever pass allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise with a clinical finish.
The match turned out to be closer than expected and a moment of sheer brilliance from Andros Townsend turned the game in Palace’s favour. The former Spurs man put his magical left foot through the ball from a long way outside the box but his thunderous effort evaded the fingertips of Ederson, thus putting Palace 2-1 up before half-time.
Townsend hit the post early in the second half and Max Meyer, in an attempt to score from the rebound, was brought down inside the box by a reckless challenge from Kyle Walker, prompting referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot. Luka Milivojevic buried the penalty kick to give Palace an unlikely 3-1 lead.
De Bruyne made it 3-2 with a cross that luckily sailed over the head of Guaita and Leroy Sane hit the post later on but the Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead for a famous win.
3. Wolves vs Chelsea – 6th December
Premier League newcomers Wolves impressed one and all with their character and resilience but as a matter of fact, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were going through a patchy period when they played host to Chelsea on 6th December.
Wolves came into the game on the back of miserable defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, and the Black Country outfit were under pressure to justify that their flying start to the campaign wasn’t a mere flash in the pan.
Things didn’t go according to plan for Wolves though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful effort from 25 yards was headed into his own net by home captain Conor Coady just 18 minutes into the game.
Both teams failed to produce anything spectacular in the first half but Chelsea went into the interval with a 1-0 lead.
However, Wolves staged a remarkable comeback following the restart, as two quick goals from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in the space of just four minutes proved to be the turning point in the clash.
Wolves ultimately won the game 2-1 and Nuno Santo’s lion-hearted warriors went on to register impressive victories over the likes of Man United, Spurs and Liverpool thereafter.
4. Newcastle United vs Man City – 31st January
Pep Guardiola sat in the dugout for his 100th Premier League game, as Newcastle United played host to defending champions Man City towards the end of January.
With Man City and Liverpool going hammer and tongs at each other in a bid to get the upper hand in the title race, this was always going to be a must-win game for the Citizens and they were the definitely the strong favourites against Rafael Benitez’s unit.
And it looked like the travelling fans were in for an absolute feast when Sergio Aguero put the visitors 1-0 ahead just 24 seconds into the game. City dictated the play in the first half and they could have had the second goal just at the stroke of the interval, only for David Silva’s attempt to be blocked by Florian Lejeune.
Man City upped the ante after the restart and Martin Dubravka was called into action numerous times early in the second half, as Sterling, Sane and David Silva all had attempts on goal.
However, in a twist of fate, Newcastle made City pay for their missed chances and equalised in the 66th minute. Salomon Rondon got in front of John Stones and volleyed it straight into the net after a bit of a scramble in the final third.
City went all out in pursuit of the winner but it was Newcastle who had the last laugh and pulled off a massive upset.
Fernandinho’s challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed worthy of a penalty and Matt Ritchie stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way, thus making it 2-1 with just 10 minutes left to play. The 2-1 victory meant that Newcastle registered their first victory over Man City in the Premier League since 2005.
5. Man United vs Cardiff City – 12th May
Man United thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in December in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as the caretaker manager of the Red Devils. However, the tides turned dramatically when an already-relegated Cardiff City travelled to Old Trafford to take on United in the final game of the campaign.
Marcus Rashford missed a couple of promising chances and Neil Warnock’s side drew first blood. Diogo Dalot’s rather tame looking challenge on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Jonathan Moss for some unknown reason and Mendez-Laing stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.
United continued to miss chances and Mason Greenwood saw his shot get tipped on to the post by Neil Etheridge.
Things turned from bad to worse in the second half for United when Josh Murphy picked out Mendez-Laing’s run at the far post with an accurate cross following a dazzling run, and Cardiff took a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t turn out to be a happy outing for Solskjer against his old club, although the Bluebirds ended their campaign on a high. Cardiff City registered their first victory over Man United since 1960 and first at Old Trafford since 1954.
Throwback to the all-English CL final in 2007/08 between Man United and Chelsea
Throwback to the 2007-08 CL final between Man United and Chelsea
The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final contested between Liverpool and Spurs turned out to be a rather one-sided encounter, as the Reds, managed by Jurgen Klopp, romped home with a comfortable 2-0 victory and in doing so, claimed their sixth European Cup title.
It was also Liverpool’s first Champions League victory since the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ way back in 2004-05 when Rafael Benitez inspired the Reds to a penalty shootout victory over AC Milan in the final.
Both Liverpool and Spurs progressed to the final with dramatic victories over their opponents in the semi-final clashes. While Klopp’s side successfully overturned a 3-0 deficit from the first leg at Camp Nou against Barcelona, Spurs found themselves 3-0 down on aggregate at the halfway mark in the second-leg against Ajax away from home, yet managing to book their berth in the final.
Liverpool fell agonisingly short of Man City in the Premier League title race and finished the season as runners-up in the league, while Mauricio Pochettino also guided Spurs to a 4th-place finish in the league following a few hiccups towards the end of the campaign.
Both teams had promised a lot throughout the season without winning any trophies and the 2018-19 Champions League final was a golden opportunity for them to end their drought for silverware.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were pretty much the underdogs in the 2017-18 final against Real Madrid but they went in as the outright favourites this time around.
Moussa Sissoko, who had been so good for Spurs all season, turned into a villain in the final. The Frenchman’s handball incident inside the box just a few seconds into the game was deemed worthy of a penalty and Mo Salah converted from the spot to give Liverpool a 1-0 advantage.
Spurs retained most of the possession in the first half but they struggled to create any clear-cut scoring chances, whilst Liverpool continued to threaten on the counter. The rest of the first half was anything but eventful, although Spurs did make an attempt to up the ante in search of an equaliser after the interval.
Both managers made some key substitutions in an attempt to alter the balance of the game, with Klopp bringing in Divock Origi in place of Robert Firmino, whereas Pochettino opted for Lucas Moura in place in of Harry Winks.
Spurs pressed higher up the pitch and attempted several shots on goal in the last twenty minutes or so, leaving themselves vulnerable to Liverpool’s devastating counter-attacks.
Divock Origi, who was the comeback hero for Liverpool at Anfield against Barcelona in the semi-finals, struck in the 87th minute, taking advantage of some sloppy defending from the Lilywhites. The Belgian’s goal sealed the win for Liverpool and Klopp lifted his first ever trophy as the manager at Anfield.
Well, the 2018-19 season was the first time in history when both the major European finals were contested between teams from the same nation, with Arsenal and Chelsea fighting it out for the Europa League crown.
That hadn’t happened before but as a matter of fact, the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final was the last time when two English teams fought it out for the bragging rights in Europe’s top-flight.
It has been 12 years since that final in Moscow between Man United and Chelsea but shades of that fateful encounter still loom large in the memories of the fans each time the two heavyweights of English football lock horns in the Premier League.
From a neutral point of view, the 2007-08 Champions League isn’t one to forget and it has to go down as a Champions League classic, not only because it was an intriguing contest decided by a penalty shootout, but also for the tears, smiles and the completely different set of emotions that it evoked amongst both the sets of fans.
With that in mind, let us now open the vault and revisit that rainy night in Moscow when Avram Grant’s Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United went head to head at the Luzhniki Stadium in what was the first ever all-English final in the history of the Champions League.
The build-up to the game
The 2007-08 season witnessed the end of Jose Mourinho’s illustrious reign at Chelsea and the Blues would eventually go on to finish runners-up to Man United in the Premier League.
Also, defeats in the Community Shield and the League Cup final meant that the Champions League final was the last opportunity for Chelsea to get their hands on silverware.
Chelsea were drawn in Group B along with Schalke, Rosenborg and Valencia and the Blues progressed to the round-of-16 as the undisputed winners of the group without suffering a single defeat.
The Blues faced Greek giants Olympiacos in the last 16 of the competition. A resounding 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg was enough to progress to the quarter-finals after the first-leg in Athens had ended 0-0.
The quarter-final tie against Fenerbahce proved to be a much tougher one for Chelsea, as the Blues lost 2-1 away from home in the first leg. However, goals from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard guided them to a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and booked the Blues’ place in the last four with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.
Chelsea faced Premier League rivals Liverpool in the semi-finals, with the first leg at Anfield ending in a 1-1 draw. The second leg at Stamford Bridge finished 3-2 in favour of Chelsea after extra time, as a brace from Didier Drogba sent the Blues through to their first ever UEFA Champions League final.
Having won the Premier League in the 2007-08 season, Man United were high on confidence and Sir Alex sensed the opportunity to complete the double.
As a matter of fact, United went into the Champions League final without losing a single game, registering victories over Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages.
En route to the final, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, eclipsing their record of four wins and six draws in the 10 games they played to reach the final in 1999.
Brief Review of the Game
Sir Alex went into the game with his preferred 4-4-3 system, with a back four of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrick Evra and Wes Brown protecting Edwin van der Saar in goal.
Carrick and Scholes formed the double pivot in the midfield with Owen Hargreaves and Cristiano Ronaldo operating on either flank. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney started up front.
Chelsea manager Avram Grant made a surprise decision by fielding Michael Essien at right-back alongside the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho.
Claude Makelele started in a holding role in front of the back four with Lampard and Ballack operating in a more advanced role. Didier Drogba was complemented by Joe Cole and Florent Malouda up front.
Following a relatively lacklustre opening 20 minutes from both the teams, Paul Scholes and Makelele clashed in mid-air, prompting the referee to dish out a booking to both of them, with Scholes leaving the field to receive treatment for a bloody nose.
The opening goal didn’t take long to come though, as Wes Brown’s cross from the right was met with a well-timed header from Ronaldo, who put the ball past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.
Rio Ferdinand’s headed clearance towards his own goal in the 33rd minute almost evaded the reach of Van der Sar but the Dutchman pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop, thus saving United the blushes and denying Chelsea an equaliser.
United were clearly the dominant side in the first half and they could have had a couple of more goals, only for Petr Cech to deny Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick with his sharp anticipation.
Chelsea did, however, find the equaliser just at the stroke of halftime. Michael Essien’s pile driver from range, which deflected off both Vidic and Ferdinand, found Lampard, who sored with an easy finish to make it 1-1. The goal was a lucky one but it handed Chelsea the momentum heading into the interval, nevertheless.
With momentum on their side, Chelsea caught the game by the scruff of its neck following the restart and it was all one-way traffic in the second half, with the Blues keeping Man United on the back foot with some impressive attacking play.
Didier Drogba’s attempted finish from just outside the box struck the post in the 77th minute before the Ivorian came inches close to turning Joe Cole’s cross home for the winner four minutes from time.
With the scores tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time, the game went into extra time and both the teams had a few golden opportunities to score the crucial second goal.
Frank Lampard’s shot came back off the underside of the post, while Ryan Giggs saw his effort cleared off the line by John Terry. However, the tension and the pressure of the final finally had a negative impact on the proceedings late in the second half of extra time.
Ballack and Terry were apparently annoyed with Tevez over a throw-in incident and what started as a confrontation between three players ultimately turned into a melee involving all the 22 players on the pitch.
In the midst of all the pandemonium, Droga received a red card for slapping Vidic on the face, whilst Ballack also received a booking.
United though, didn’t have the time to exploit Chelsea’s numerical disadvantage and with both the teams still locked at 1-1, a penalty shootout was required to decide the fate of the final.
Tevez sent Cech the wrong way from the first penalty kick before Ballack shot powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick and Belletti also converted their respective attempts before Ronaldo’s shot was kept out by a diving Cech, giving Chelsea the advantage in the shootout.
Lampard, Hargreaves, Cole and Nani all found the net and it was up to skipper John Terry to seal the deal for Chelsea. As both sets of fans watched on with anguish and nervousness, Terry lost his footing on a rainy night, and despite Van der Sar diving the wrong way, his scuffed effort went out off the crossbar.
Chelsea failed to grab their moment and Van der Sar kept out Nicolas Anelka’s penalty in sudden death, thus securing United’s third European Cup crown.
Terry and Drogba were in tears, as were most of the Blues fans in the stands, and the ecstasy amongst the Man United players and supporters made it all the more difficult for them to digest the defeat.
Indeed, it was agony for one and joy for another, but the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final, the first-ever all-English final, proved to be an intriguing game of football.
A look back at the game when Lampard’s Derby County faced Chelsea in the League Cup
A look back at the game when Lampard’s Derby County faced Chelsea in the League Cup
There is a breath of fresh air around Stamford Bridge following the appointment of club legend Frank Lampard as the new manager, with the 3-time Premier League winner becoming the first English manager to take charge of Chelsea in over two decades.
The Blues were without a manager since the departure of Maurizio Sarri to Juventus, and with the current transfer embargo in place at West London, the club was in desperate need of bringing in someone to assume control of things at the helm of affairs.
Sarri’s reign at Stamford Bridge was not the most comfortable journey but it did produce the desired results nevertheless, with the Blues lifting the Europa League trophy and securing a third-place finish in the Premier League last term.
As a matter of fact, Chelsea made quite a lot of progress under Sarri but the Italian’s decision to quit his job after just a single season was quite inexplicable given that the board would hardly have considered sacking him after such a fruitful campaign.
Maybe the prospect of a return to his homeland with heavyweights Juventus proved to be too tempting for him to resist.
Well, life had to go on after Sarri’s departure and Chelsea have decided to put their trust in Frank Lampard despite having to pay a compensation fee to Derby County in order to free him from his contract at Pride Park.
The 41-year-old’s emotional return to the club is bound to be welcomed warmly by the fans with heartfelt gratitude and it is easy to see that Chelsea have finally deviated from their staunch recruitment policy of managers.
Over the years, Roman Abramovich has been ruthless, to say the least, in the way that he has handled affairs at Chelsea.
As far as the managerial recruitment policy is concerned, success, experience and reputation have been the primary criteria barring a couple of instances in the recent past when the Blues opted to gamble on the likes of Andre Villa-Boas and Robert Di Matteo.
Well, their reigns at Stamford Bridge didn’t last long and the fans will be hoping that Lampard’s return to Stamford Bridge won’t necessarily lead to the erosion of his legendary status.
It is true that his status as a rookie in the managerial scheme of things doesn’t change much even after guiding Derby County to the play-off final last season but Lampard has proven in the past that he is by no means an incompetent person when it comes to tactics and man-management.
It was evident from the attractive brand of football that Derby played in the Championship last season and gave their promotion rivals a real run for their money despite lacking top-quality players.
Apart from the Championship, the Rams enjoyed a good run in the League Cup this past season where they registered a third-round victory over Man United before being knocked out by eventual runners-up Chelsea in the Round-of-16.
One such instance of Lampard’s ability to read the game tactically came in the League Cup fixture against Chelsea and although Derby ended up losing the game 3-2, the former England star had every reason to be happy with his team’s performance.
He almost matched Sarri move-for-move in terms of tactics in that game and that is certainly worthy of a lot of praise given that Sarri is head and shoulders above Lampard as far as managerial experience is concerned.
Derby County’s League Cup tie against Chelsea wasn’t the first time that Lampard was up against his former club given that the midfielder had already faced Chelsea as a player after leaving for Man City in 2014.
However, it was the first time that he was facing his old club as a manager and it was always going to be a monumentous occasion for him upon his return to Stamford Bridge.
Lampard’s appointment as the new Chelsea manager might as well mark the dawn of a new era at Stamford Bridge but it is certainly worth taking a look back at what happened last season when Derby County locked horns with the Blues in the round-of-16 of the League Cup on the 1st of November 2018.
Display of Lampard’s tactical understanding
Chelsea played a patient and possession-based brand of football last season under the stewardship of Sarri and the Blues managed to starve the opposition of the ball with such kind of an approach more often than not.
Derby, as a unit, were no match for Chelsea, who boasted of several world-class stars in their ranks. Lampard knew that going all-out attack was never going to work in his team’s favour.
However, he seemed to know that the Blues were going to rotate their players and Sarri did. In fact, he fielded a changed line-up consisting of the likes of Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, Emerson and Willy Caballero at the back.
Now, Lampard’s challenge was to identify the weak links in Chelsea’s system and that was where he needed to bring in his vast experience as a player.
From his knowledge of the Chelsea squad, he seemed to know very well that Cahill and Christensen weren’t the quickest of defenders and given that Sarri always favoured a high defensive line, Lampard used pace to perfection.
Also, two of the marked features of Chelsea’s style of play last season were building the play from the back and passing the ball around fluently in the middle of the park.
That was how they managed to build up attacks and it was always going to be important for Derby to find a way to deal with such a high-quality technical approach.
As it happened
Chelsea, as usual, went into the game with their preferred 4-3-3 formation with Kante, Kovacic and Fabregas in the midfield. Loftus-Cheek and Willian started on flank with Morata as the centre-forward.
As opposed to the regular Premier League eleven that consisted of David Luiz, Antonio Rodiger, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso, Sarri opted for a change at the back and fielded Cahill, Christensen, Caballero, Emerson and Zappacosta.
Derby also started with a 4-3-3 system, with Marriott, Waghorn and Lawrence up front complemented by the likes of Mount, Huddlestone and Wilson in the midfield. A regular back-four consisted of Bogle, Malone, Keogh and Tomori with the hugely experienced Scott Carson in goal.
Derby pressed Chelsea higher up the pitch in the opening stages of the game as Lampard tried to negate Sarri’s tactics of playing it out from the back. That approach paid rich dividends as Derby’s pressure forced the likes of Cahill and Caballero to commit a lot of errors.
As opposed to Luiz and Rudiger, who have a very good passing range and are comfortable with the ball at their feet, Chelsea’s backline in that game seemingly lacked those attributes and that is the reason why Lampard’s high-pressing tactics worked wonders.
It was Chelsea, however, who drew first blood, as Fikayo’s Tomori’s scuffed clearance off Zappacosta’s cross from the right found the back of his own net.
As brave and fearless as Derby were on that day, that bizarre own goal hardly dampened their spirits and the Rams found an immediate reply through Jack Marriott.
That only proved to be a temporary relief for Lampard though, as Keogh’s own goal, once again from Zappacosta’s cross, put Chelsea 2-1 up in the 21st minute.
However, Martyn Waghorn put the Rams back on level terms just 6 minutes later as Derby found acres of space behind Chelsea’s rather pedestrian-looking backline.
Fabregas scored Chelsea’s third just before half-time with a shot from inside the box that should probably go down as a goalkeeping error.
A closer look at the tactical side of things would reveal that Derby dropped to a 4-5-1 shape when Chelsea were in possession, which allowed them to cut down the passing lanes in the middle of the park.
Kante and Kovacic, who were trying to play in between the opposition’s lines with Fabregas in a deep role in front of the backline, hardly managed to get themselves involved in the thick of things in the first half, as the likes of Mount, Huddlestone, Waghorn, Wilson and Lawrence formed a near-impenetrable five-man wall.
That ploy allowed the Rams to not only disrupt Chelsea’s build-up play but also win the ball back and launch a few pacy counter-attacks of their own.
Mount and Wilson, in particular, exploited the slow nature of the Blues backline as the midfielders played long balls forward after breaking up the play effectively.
Sarri sensed the danger and opted for a change in approach in the second-half, with Kante and Kovacic dropping down deeper to complement Fabregas in what looked like an outright midfield three.
With Chelsea in the driver’s seat at the halfway mark, they adopted a more conservative approach, with Kante and Kovacic offering extra defensive cover.
Also, the likes of Loftus-Cheek and Willian, who were operating out wide in the first half, moved narrower after the interval, thus drawing Derby’s full-backs Malone and Bogle out of position.
That, in turn, allowed Chelsea full-backs Zappacosta and Emerson to find a lot of space down the wide areas, and the Blues looked a lot more threatening and organised in the final third.
Despite, that, however, Derby were still able to create a lot of chances with their pacey and energetic attack, as Cahill continued to have a nightmare at the back.
The Rams had multiple opportunities to score the equaliser and probably seal the game, but Marriott couldn’t make the most of those chances and later, substitute David Nugent hit the post.
What happened in the League Cup last season is simply dead and buried and merely a part of history, but Lampard reminded one and all that he is more than capable of competing tactically with experienced managers.
Chelsea were extremely lucky to get over the line on that day but Lampard’s Derby County won a lot of hearts despite failing to repeat their miraculous penalty-shootout win against Man United in the previous round.
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