Chelsea 6-1 Middlesbrough: 3 Blues Talking Points

Chelsea took care of business, overturning the deficit and thrashing Middlesbrough to advance to the Carabao Cup Final.
Chelsea v Middlesbrough - Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Chelsea v Middlesbrough - Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

The Chels’ are heading back to Wembley! Mauricio Pochettino’s team netted four goals in the first half. The first was an own goal by Jonny Howson, who inadvertently bundled the ball into his own net. Chelsea, with a sense of urgency, pressed forward and secured the lead in the match within just half an hour. Enzo Fernandez found the back of the net for the fourth time this season, adding to Boro's woes. Subsequently, Axel Disasi and Cole Palmer each contributed a goal before the halftime whistle.

The offensive onslaught persisted in the second half as CFC aimed to establish a commanding six-goal lead. Cole Palmer and Noni Madueke scored within a mere four-minute interval, putting the finishing touches on Chelsea's night in the League Cup semifinal. Middlesbrough salvaged some pride by ruining the Blues’ cleansheet in the 88th minute when Morgan Rodgers scored, but by that time, the game and the tie were already sealed.

Ben Chilwell returns to the XI

The England international started for the Blues since September, in his natural position after often playing higher up the pitch by Pochettino. This was a double boost for the west London side, allowing Levi Colwill to shift into the center of defense. Chilwell's impact was evident from the beginning. He serves as an attacking asset Pochettino lacked for months, with exquisite timing entering the opposition's box. The former Leicester City full-back was unlucky not to get a penalty in the 12th minute, claiming the ball alone in the Boro area, cleared out by Tom Glover.

It didn't take long before Chilwell played a crucial role again. The returning star orchestrated play from the No.10 position, winning the ball, delivering an exquisite pass to Raheem Sterling in the buildup to the Blues' opening goal.

Chelsea's captain for the night brought penetration moving forward, adding balance to the side, often lacking when Colwill played out wide. With Malo Gusto absent due to injury, Pochettino's decision to position Chilwell in such a role was straightforward. After such a performance, he should be convinced it's always a wise choice given the defender's quality. His substitution was sensible as he continues to recover, but the difference was noticeable when Colwill returned to the flank.

Wembley Bound + Potential Ticket to Europe

Mauricio Pochettino emphasized the importance of the Carabao Cup from the start, maintaining a clear stance regardless of the opposition. While the 51-year-old has tactfully rotated and rested players in the competition, it's been done with a light touch.

This approach has allowed him to kick off his tenure with success and fulfill a set target. So far, the team has successfully navigated every challenge. Chelsea currently occupies the ninth position in the Premier League table, trailing by nine points behind fifth-placed Tottenham and four points from sixth-placed West Ham. While European dreams still linger at Stamford Bridge, in the cup, the Blues are just one game away – not a significant gap.

Chelsea now awaits Wednesday's contest to determine the team advancing between Liverpool and Fulham. Liverpool secured a 2-1 victory in the first leg at Anfield after initially trailing in the second half. Fulham might pose a challenging task, especially with Mohamed Salah away on international duty. Nonetheless, Liverpool's squad boasts greater depth and talent compared to Fulham.

Should the Reds progress, the League Cup Final on Feb. 25 will set the stage for a rematch of the 2021/22 cup final. Liverpool previously emerged victorious against Chelsea on that occasion, clinching the title via penalties and securing a domestic cup double.

Morale Booster

It goes without saying this result is a perfect morale booster. It's been a while since Chelsea won by four or more goals. Important games are coming thick and fast for CFC, with an FA Cup match against Villa around the corner and a crucial Premier League fixture against Liverpool at Anfield. This match could most likely be the Blues' opponent in the League Cup final next month.