By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Carrow Road/January 6, 2017
I must confess I’m still suffering from the hangover from Wednesday night’s disappointment at the Emirates Stadium because I still couldn’t fathom how we didn’t leave North London with all three points in the bag after such an impressive performance, but I guess that’s football. We have the short trip to East Anglia to face Norwich City as we begin our FA Cup campaign, our fourth competition of the season, looking to go one better than we did last season when we lost to Arsenal in the final back in May.
The last time we faced Norwich City in any competition was in March 2016 before their relegation to the Championship where they remained till the present day. The fact it has been two seasons since we last played Norwich City only points to the fact this isn’t the most popular fixture in either club’s fixture calendar nevertheless this fixture has taken place 52 times prior to Saturday with Chelsea leading the head to head with (W21 D17 L14). Chelsea have faced the Canaries 6 previous times in the FA Cup, the last of which came in 2007, progressing on every occasion with Norwich City able to force a replay, which they lost handsomely, on two occasions. Chelsea has only lost one of our last 16 encounters against Norwich (W11 D4) and that was way back in 1994. The last time Chelsea failed to make it past the third round FA Cup was in 1998 when we lost to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side 5-3 on the day. Norwich on the other hand have been eliminated by a Premier League club in their last three FA Cup campaigns.
Antonio Conte has indicated he’ll again ring the changes as he gives deserved rest to some of his star players particularly Eden Hazard who picked up a knock in his calf during the 2-2 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night. The coach also confirmed that David Luiz has overcome his knee injury saga and will be in the match day squad, and might even start, for the first time since the 4-0 win against Azeri champions FK Qarabag in the Champions’ League back in October. Charly Musonda who’s also been out with a groin strain will also be involved at Carrow Road on Saturday tea time. Victor Moses, who looked like a ghost of himself against Arsenal in midweek, may get the weekend off to recuperate from whatever that interfered with his game and Davide Zappacosta, who made such an impact off the bench on Wednesday, will get another chance to impress and maybe stake a claim to the RWB position. Michy Batshuayi has been directly involved in 9 goals (7goals 2assists) in just 4 matches against non-Premier League teams in cup competitions and he’ll be looking to add to that tally against Norwich tomorrow evening especially as we welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge in midweek for the first leg of our Carabao Cup semi-final matches. Willian and Kenedy scored their first league goals for Chelsea at Carrow Road against Norwich and both will be looking to add to their tally when we visit the stadium again tomorrow night. Pedro, Rudiger and Drinkwater, whose thunderbolt against Stoke City was among the goals in the running for Goal of the Month for the month of December, might all be returning to the starting XI after starting the game at the Emirates on the bench. Willy Caballero should also return between the sticks for the first time since the quarter final of the Carabao Cup against Bournemouth.
Caballero; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger; Zappacosta, Fabregas, Drinkwater, Kenedy; Willian, Pedro; Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: DWWDW
Injuries: Eden Hazard (Calf) –Out.
Daniel Farke and his players already had a taste of what it’s like to face Premier League opposition in a cup competition this season having already faced Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup in a match where Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah rose from the bench and scored the equalizer within seconds of coming on to force extra time and finished the job with a 96th minute winner. Farke put out a very strong team that day and they were just 5 minutes away from a famous victory the youngster stole the show. The former Borussia Dortmund academy coach likes to set his teams up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and until recently he hasn’t the penchant for rotation perhaps but he has used three different teams for their last three games with the only constants being Angus Gunn, Ivo Pinto, Tom Trybull and Nelson Oliveira. With one full week until their next fixture, away to Bristol City in the Championship, Farke might be tempted to use his best legs knowing Chelsea may be forced to rotate ahead of their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal. The confidence within the Canaries’ camp will surely be high having amassed 7 points from their last three matches with two of those matches taking place away from Carrow Road and they will be high spirit to welcome the reigning Premier League champions.
Gunn; Pinto, Zimmermann, Hanley, Lewis; Trybull, Tettey; Murphy, Maddison, Pritchard; Oliveira.
Last 5 matches: WDWLL
Injuries: Louis Thompson (Achilles tendon) – Out.
Kenedy vs. Alex Pritchard
Some Chelsea fans have been making a case for Kenedy to be retained as the backup to Marcos Alonso at the LWB position but how he performs against a fast and tricky winger like Pritchard who likes to cut inside the full back to cause havoc will go a long way to determine how much of a serious contender the Brazilian is for that position.
Cesc Fabregas vs. Alex Tettey
Cesc Fabregas will surely have a tough day at the office against this tough-as-nail Ghanaian-born Norwegian international. Tettey is never shy to go into a tackle and he also has a long range of passing and as much as dictating Chelsea’s play Fabregas must also be aware of the Norwegian at all times as his long range shooting accuracy is something to be proud of.
David Luiz vs. Nelson Oliveira
Having being missing in action since early October David Luiz will likely be returning to action against Norwich tomorrow evening and if that’s the case then he couldn’t have asked for a tougher opponent than Oliveira. While the Portuguese may not be all that physical he’s skilful and always full of running and forcing defenders into making mistakes so Luiz had better shake off the cobwebs before taking to the pitch on Saturday.
With Antonio Conte having welcomed his first new addition of the winter transfer window he will be looking to progress to the latter rounds of the FA Cup having already made into the semi-final of the Carabao Cup. He indicated during his prematch press conference that he’ll be rotating his squad once again given his fringe players another opportunity to impress. Norwich City are 9 points off a playoff place and it’s yet to be seen whether Farke will prioritise a late playoff push over a cup run but whatever he chooses to do his team will not roll over for Chelsea as they are going to make it as difficult as possible for the defending Premier League Champions just as they did against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season. One thing both this team will try to avoid is this game going into a replay, which will be the case should this game end in a draw, particularly in Chelsea’s case with the Champions’ League set to resume in February. Hopefully we go into our Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal in midweek on the back of a victory in Norfolk. Until midweek please Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Caught Offside
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