By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/September 20, 2017
It wasn’t the result we all expected on Sunday, but then no one expected the Gunners to turn up such spirited performance so fair play to them. But the matches keep piling up as we host Championship outfit, Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge in the third round of the Carabao Cup, with the visit to the Bet365 at the weekend waiting on the wings. Forests are going to be a tricky opposition considering they are something of an unknown quantity.
Rather surprisingly, considering Forest have been in the lower rungs of English football for what seemed like ages, Chelsea has a long history of battles with Nottingham Forest that dates back to October of the year 1906. Since that first match in the old second division, which Forest won 3-1, the two teams have locked horns 90 more times with Chelsea recording 37 victories overall and Forest having 27 wins to their name with the remaining 26 ending in draws. Of the 91 matches between these two teams only ten has come in the Premier League, the last of which came in February 1999 (the same season that Forests was relegated) but the most recent encounters between the two teams have both come in the FA Cup in year 2000 and 2007, with Chelsea running out winners on both occasion 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. Both times we had gone on to win the competition. Maybe a victory tomorrow night will be a catalyst to another League Cup (Carabao Cup or whatever) triumph.
Antonio Conte has all but confirmed two of the eleven that will be starting the game against Forest on Wednesday night in Eden Hazard and Andreas Christensen, with Christensen taking the place of suspended David Luiz. We might be seeing some of the youths as well. Seeing how much Conte rotated the squad for the visit of Qarabag in the Champions’ League last week, I think we might be seeing Willy Caballero take to pitch for the first time in a Chelsea shirt and Charly Musonda might get a chance for his competitive debut tomorrow night as well. Davide Zappacosta will surely be starting as the RWB back with Moses on the bench (or perhaps he will be playing further forward in place of Willian). Tiemoue Bakayoko will be in line for a start as well after his forty-five minutes cameo against Arsenal on Sunday. Michy Batshuayi should also come back into the team to lead the line with Alvaro Morata likely to sit this one out with the away games against Stoke and Atletico Madrid on the horizon. This isn’t going to be a cakewalk and I trust Antonio Conte to take it seriously and line the team up in an appropriate manner.
Caballero; Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Kenedy; Hazard, Musonda; Batshuayi
Last Five Matches: DWWWW
Injuries: Danny Drinkwater (Muscular) –Doubt; Pedro Rodriguez (Leg)-Doubt; David Luiz (Suspended)
Former Chelsea academy graduate Michael Mancienne now plies his trade at The City Ground after his sojourn with Hamburg in Germany ended on a sour note, and he should be very motivated to go against his former employers for which he made four senior appearances. Mark Warburton sets his team up in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation with Matt Mills and Joe Worrall occupying central defence with the duo of Tendayi Darikwa and former Arsenal player Armand Traore playing as full backs. Former Leeds Captain Liam Bridcutt and Greek international Andreas Bouchalakis anchors the midfield with the trio of Mustapha Carayol, Bren Bereton and Barrie McKay playing behind lone striker Daryl Murphy. Liam Bridcutt is cup-tied, having already appeared for Leeds in this competition, hence won’t be available for this match and he’s likely to be replaced in the squad by either one of Jamie Ward or Kevin Dowell. Warburton might be tempted to give Jason Cummings the nod to lead the attack once again after his two-goal showing in the defeat of Newcastle in the last round. Mark Warburton has rotated his squad in recent games and might again give his squad players a look in tomorrow with them winning just one of their four games since that triumph over Newcastle losing the remaining three, most recently against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Last 5 matches: LWLLW
Injuries: Stephen Henderson (ACL) – Out
Charly Musonda vs. Tenday Darikwa
Charly Musonda surely will be relishing his chance to shine but in Darikwa he will find a tough opposition. The England-born Zimbabwean is as tough as they come and his likely to give Musonda a baptism of fire.
Kenedy vs. Mustapha Carayol
Kenedy is likely to be given his chance after his Asian social mediaerror and he’ll likely play as LWB with Alonso getting a deserved rest and if that’s the case. The 29-year old Gambian international Carayol is as pacy as he is tricky so Kenedy will have to be on his toe to keep up.
Hazard vs. Armand Traore
The Eden Hazard that we saw in his cameo against Arsenal on Sunday is the closest to the Hazard of old that we’ve seen this season which means he’s getting close to his best. It’s going to be busy night for the former Arsenal man Traore tomorrow.
Nottingham Forest already has a Premier League scalp to their name in this season’s Carabao Cup after knocking out Newcastle after extra time at St. James’ Park, so this is going to be far from a cakewalk for Chelsea even if we’re favourites to go through at the end of the night. Forest met Arsenal at this stage of the competition last season and got whitewashed 4-0 at The City Ground, a result that will likely make them more determined to avoid defeat if they can help it. Antonio Conte is sure to ring the changes but we should still have enough to beat Forest and be in the hat for the fourth round draw. Until the weekend, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: League Lane
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