Chelsea’s season could fall apart this week if they are knocked out of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, says Paul Merson | Football News

In his latest Sky Sports column, Paul Merson discusses a massive week for Chelsea’s season, dissects the Premier League title race and previews Man City’s FA Cup tie at Spurs.

This is a massive week in Chelsea’s season, which could fall apart in four days.

If they win their Carabao Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough then beat Aston Villa, they’re knocking out a big team from the FA Cup as well. Then when you’re a few points off sixth place, all of a sudden it doesn’t look so bad.

But losing to Middlesbrough would be a major blow. Not going through over two legs against a Championship team? In one-off games you never know, you can lose one-off games. But over two games…

Chelsea might still squeeze in the top six, you never know. But what an opportunity to get to the Carabao Cup final playing against a Championship team in the semi-final. It’s the first trophy to be won, a lot of teams would love to be there and are wishing they were there.

Tuesday 23rd January 7:00pm

Kick off 8:00pm

If Chelsea don’t go through to the final on Tuesday night, I can’t see them beating Aston Villa on Friday night, so it’s a big few days for them.

If they did lose to Middlesbrough, where would it leave Mauricio Pochettino? It’s a long-term project at Chelsea, you don’t buy players and put them on seven or eight-year contracts and start changing the manager every six months. That’s a waste of time giving them those contracts as you need stability.

Middlesbrough will try to get out and frustrate Chelsea. If it becomes a gung-ho game then Chelsea will run away with it.

They have got to take it in segments, maybe 10 minutes or 20 minutes at a time. Middlesbrough just need to get through the first 20 minutes but if they don’t, I’ll be shocked. Chelsea don’t blow teams away so Middlesbrough will be in this game for a long time.

Cole Palmer just had one of those days in the first game. He’s a top player and I don’t look at that performance and go: ‘he can’t do it at the top level’.

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Highlights of the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg between Middlesbrough and Chelsea.

He got in the positions but he’s not a natural finisher. No disrespect to him but when he went through one-on-one and dragged it past the post, that’s normal. It just showed it didn’t fall at his feet the other day.

Liverpool aren’t title favourites – their bid could be over in a week

Liverpool’s win at Bournemouth was a big football result. That was a potential banana skin. No Mohamed Salah, no Trent Alexander-Arnold, you saw Bournemouth beat Newcastle then go to Manchester United and win.

There’s a time to play teams and that wasn’t a good time to play Bournemouth. Liverpool came away from that game with flying colours.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s win against Bournemouth in the Premier League.

I’ve always said Liverpool will be there at the end of the season. They just have loads of forwards – five of them in fact – and they all score goals. You see Darwin Nunez missing loads of chances – I would rather have a forward missing loads than one who looks like he’s never going to get one.

Luis Diaz, Nunez, Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota – bar Salah there’s not a lot between them. So they’ve always got someone – that’s a massive advantage for them.

If you take Erling Haaland out of the Man City attack, it’s weaker as there’s no-one there to replace him with. Yes they have Julian Alvarez, who is a good player and will do a job, but he’s not Haaland.

I won’t say Liverpool are title favourites though. City can just churn, churn and churn out wins. They can go 10 games without losing, easily. Look at them now, they’ve won eight out of their last nine matches [in all competitions].

Their squad is just too big. They’ve had one of Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne out since the start of the season and they’re still there.

The difference between City, Liverpool and Arsenal is City can go for 10 wins in a row and nobody will pay any attention to it. If Liverpool and Arsenal do it, it’s a big thing.

And it could all be over for Liverpool in the title race in one week. They play Chelsea at home – you have no idea which Chelsea is going to turn up. They can play, so that’s a hard game.

Then they go Arsenal away, and if it goes like the way the FA Cup game went then Arsenal will win that game. Before you know it, it’s all over for Liverpool.

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Kick off 4:30pm

I think Arsenal are still in the title race. They had a big result the other day and they’re still there and thereabouts, so you have to put them in the equation.

But Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah won’t score as many goals between them as Salah – and he is on the right wing. That’s a massive advantage for Liverpool, who will be in the race for a long time if they keep playing as they are.

Man City will take FA Cup game at Spurs seriously

Man City still haven’t scored a goal at Tottenham’s new stadium yet, so they will take that very seriously. It’s not a great place for them to go, so they want to break that hoodoo.

They have to go to Tottenham later in the Premier League season, so if City lose this – either 1-0 or 2-0 again – it will create a psychological issue for them.

Harry Kane slots home against Manchester City to become Spurs' leading all-time goalscorer
Man City have a horrendous record at Tottenham’s new ground

If Tottenham win this game, then the FA Cup opens up for them. They will have beaten the team you need to beat to win the FA Cup.

This is a big game, not just for Tottenham, but for everyone else in the FA Cup.

Timo Werner could make his home debut for Spurs that day. That Man Utd game was a tough one for him to come into on his debut, he ran through a lot and missed the target a couple of times.

I thought he was a good signing for Tottenham. I actually think that if he hadn’t played for Chelsea in the past, then Chelsea would have gone for him this January. It would have suited them – he’s pacy and he can score a goal.

The one frustrating thing that happened for him at Chelsea is he constantly ran offside. It was amazing how many times he did that. When you’re playing that quickly, you don’t have to be on the last shoulder of the defender.

Watch the Carabao Cup semi-final second legs – Chelsea vs Middlesbrough and Fulham vs Liverpool – live on Sky Sports on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, both kick-offs at 8pm.

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