The absence of Nemanja Matic could prove to be the deciding factor when Chelsea meet Tottenham in the Capital One Cup final this Sunday.
Matic was sent off in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Burnley after pushing Ashley Barnes to the ground, but Chelsea were incensed that the latter had not been red carded for the challenge that sparked the incident.
Chelsea appealed the automatic three match ban, which the FA did then reduce to two games, and Matic will begin his suspension when the London side meet rivals Spurs at Wembley.
If Jose Mourinho is to win the first trophy since his returning to Chelsea, then he has his work cut out to fill the void left by the influential midfielder.
The big Serbian plays a key role in Chelsea's system, shielding the back four tirelessly and effectively with his prowling presence, tackling strength and defensive acumen.
This season he has won more tackles than any other player in the Premier League (95), and has recaptured the ball more often (141) than his rivals in the middle third of the pitch.
Matic's presence also offers more freedom to the creative players, especially Cesc Fabregas. Without the protection from Matic, Fabregas becomes exposed to tackles, and finds it extremely hard to dictate the games the way he is supposed to.
Of 37 games featuring Matic this season, Chelsea have lost only once - a 5-3 thumping at the hands of Tottenham. Of the three games he missed, they have lost two. The loss at Newcastle saw their unbeaten record swept away. The loss against Bradford at home was considered the biggest shock in FA Cup history.
Another loss this Sunday could see things straying out of Mourinho's hands. Confidence would drop, doubts would return. And fear may emerge, especially when Manchester City could cut the gap at the top to two points if they win at Liverpool.
So, not only the first trophy at stake but also Chelsea's whole season could be decided by the way Mourinho prepares his team for life without his big man.
Who will win the cup this weekend?
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