If you ever wanted an indication that money rules glory when it comes to modern day football, you only have to listen to Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Stale Solbakken in the build up to his team’s Capital One Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Showing that he is quickly getting to grips with the English game, Solbakken has promised that he will make wholesale changes to his side on Tuesday evening. Yes, that’s right, Championship Wolves are making wholesale changes to their team when they travel to play the champions of Europe.
Who said that romance was dead? Quite what you would think if you were a Wolves first teamer and you’d played at Peterborough on Saturday only to be told you aren’t playing at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday is one thing, but if you were a fan travelling from the Midlands paying hard-earned cash to see your manager make 11 changes you would be pretty livid.
There is some logic behind Solbakken’s decision – Wolves are on the back of three games in a week and the Championship is a seriously demanding division – but it says everything about the modern game that the former Copenhagen coach is sabotaging his chances against top-flight opposition just as Wolves seem to be hitting a bit of form.
Since reaching the final in 2008 under Avram Grant, Chelsea haven’t got a good record in this competition and they haven’t won a tie within 90 minutes in their last five League Cup matches.
Part of the reason why this attitude annoys me, apart from the fact that it puts the balance sheet ahead of any glory (such is the modern affliction), is that I quite fancied Wolves’ chances of causing a bit of an upset at the Bridge, or at the very least making life uncomfortable for a Chelsea side who are underperforming.
The Blues may be top of the Premier League having taken 13 points from their five games, but they are flattering to deceive big time. Roberto Di Matteo is far from convincing in his role as full-time manager and as he leads the Blues into this Capital One Cup tie, the Italian has problems to deal with.
Not that the odds reflect that – Chelsea are strong favourites at 1/4, with the draw at 9/2 and Wolves big outsiders at 9/1 – but I wouldn’t be touching that price on the west Londoners with a barge pole.
You know all is not well at Chelsea when Roman Abramovich makes an impromptu visit to the training ground, as he did last week when he turned up unannounced at Cobham to quiz the manager and senior players, and a fortunate 1-0 win over Stoke at the weekend has done little to suggest that Di Matteo isn’t in trouble.
Like Solbakken, the Italian will also make sweeping changes to the team that beat the Potters on Saturday, although that is far more understandable given the Blues’ workload in the Champions League and the fact they are facing lower league opposition at home.
But what lies beneath the first team squad isn’t quite as strong as it has been over the years and a mixture of a relative lack of quality and what could well be a lack of motivation means that, despite the changes Wolves will make, the 11/4 on the Midlanders to avoid defeat after 90 minutes is still going to be my play.
Solbakken makes a decent point when he says many of his changes will be like for like – players with Premier League experience such as Dave Edwards, Ronald Zubar, Stephen Hunt and Dorus De Vries will all come into the team – and they may be a bit keener than their Chelsea counterparts.
Since reaching the final in 2008 under Avram Grant, Chelsea haven’t got a good record in this competition and they haven’t won a tie within 90 minutes in their last five League Cup matches. It is by no means a certainty, but at the prices Wolves plus a goal appeals far more than anything you can get about a home win.
Recommended bet: Wolves to avoid defeat @ 11/4
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