LONDON: Chelsea starts its defence of the League Cup football title on Wednesday needing a convincing victory over Hull to stop its season from lurching even further into crisis.
Chelsea was already winless in three games before parting with manager Jose Mourinho last week.
It then lost at Manchester United 2-0 in the Premier League on Sunday without mustering a single shot on goal, so victory at the League Championship team on Wednesday is essential for new coach Avram Grant.
Despite another disappointing performance, Grant, who has never before coached a team outside of his native Israel, refused to blame his players.
He instead picked upon what he said were errors by the referee in the loss at United, which appears to be gaining momentum in its attempt to retain the league title and hosts Coventry in another of Wednesday’s eight League Cup matches.
“The only thing we can do is to work hard to put the team in the place they deserve to be,” Grant said.
With Chelsea hampered by injuries to Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, and without a win since August 25, Hull will be confident of a better result than when the teams last met.
Chelsea won 6-1 at Hull in the FA Cup in 1999.
Hull’s fortunes have improved since that match, which was at the club’s old Boothferry Park Stadium. It is now installed at the 25,000-seat KC Stadium and has several players with Premier League experience.
Nick Barmby, Michael Bridges and Dean Windass spent much of their careers in the top division, while Henrik Pedersen and the recently-acquired playmaker Jay Jay Okocha will be up against their former Bolton teammate Tal Ben Haim.
“It’s going to be a very hard game,” Ben Haim said. “We need to be ready because it’s going to be difficult. We come very concentrated with a lot of desire to win the game.”
Hull warmed up for the match, its biggest of the season so far, with a 1-0 League Championship loss at Sheffield Wednesday. — AP