Photo Source: The FA.com
A quick look at the world of ChelsTwit and you’d be hard pressed to realise that Chelsea are still competing in every competition they entered at the beginning of the season. This coming week will be pivotal if that’s to continue.
Maurizio Sarri has found himself under a spotlight he doesn’t really deserve. He never said integrating his system would be easy and the process of adapting the players at his disposal to suit it is on-going.
This is a time for patience for Chelsea fans. Christian Pulisic has already been signed for next season and if Chelsea’s board could bring in a goalscorer before the end of January window, Sarri’s team will be just fine.
Chelsea enter their fourth competition of the season on Saturday afternoon. Nottingham Forest are the visitors to Stamford Bridge in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. To this writer, that still imbibes a feeling of excitement and nostalgia lost on so many in these Premier League days. Historically, the FA Cup was always Chelsea’s best shot at silverware.
Chelsea’s injury list is growing by the day forcing Sarri to make changes. To be fair, he would have anyway. His reluctance to rotate the squad in the Premier League sees a few of his charges in need of a day off following the busy festive period. So who’s in and who’s out.
Goalkeeper – Willy Caballero is due a run out as much as Kepa is due a rest. The Argentine has played 17 games for Chelsea, generally in the early stages of the minor cup competitions. His last outing came in the Europa League game against MOL Vidi which ended 2-2. That’s the one negative, Willy has a tendency to let a goal in. He should be okay against Forest though.
Defence – The clamour to see Emerson play will be satisfied against Forest, not necessarily because Sarri wants to but because Alonso really needs a time-out and there is no one else. Sarri will want to retain some semblance of his favoured lineup though that being Antonio Rudiger. The makeshift back four could well feature players heading for the Stamford Bridge exit door. In particular, Gary Cahill, who deserves the chance of taking the ovation he will get should he play. Cahill has been a club legend, let’s not forget that. However, it’s unlikely he’ll start, if it’s to be his final appearance it will be a cameo from the bench. Andreas Christensen wants more game time but needs to show Sarri he’s up to the task. Davide Zappacosta, another potential departee, completes the four.
Midfield – Cesc Fabregas has made no secret of the fact that he thinks he should play more. Judging by his performance against Southampton he probably should but with Sarri in charge, his ‘more football’ is likely to be elsewhere. Alongside Fab, Ross Barkley has done enough to warrant his place in most of Chelsea starting XI’s. Chelsea’s difficulties up front influence this third pick. Mateo Kovacic has been ill so may not feature and given the Italian’s rotational reluctance N’golo Kante, if anyone, has the legs for another game. The diminutive Frenchman is a midfield dynamo.
Attack – With both Pedro and Willian missing through injury the front three ought to see Alvaro Morata lead from the front. He didn’t score, but against Southampton, he played as well as he recently has. The next two are more fantasy football than the reality that the FA Cup brings but Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi – takes a deep breath – could start together. There I said it. There’s no reason not to give it go, but whilst my head says it won’t happen, it could. If nothing else, it adds to the magic of the FA Cup.
Caballero, Emerson, Rudiger, Christensen, Zappacosta, Fabregas, Kante, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Morata
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