By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/January 17, 2017
Chelsea has been involved in a further two goalless draws since that uninspiring afternoon in Norfolk and Norwich City has traveled to Bristol City in the Championship and came back with all three points. After three consecutive 0-0 draws Antonio Conte will surely be hoping that his players turn up for this one and get a goal which will see us through to the fourth round of the FA Cup where Newcastle United is waiting. I personally I think this is the most important fixture of our season as anything other than a win will begin to send doubts to the minds of the players and make fans even more uneasy – with a lot of them leaving before the end of the weekend’s game.
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 has been eliminated by a Premier League club in their last three FA Cup campaigns but the side from East Anglia has won two and drawn one of their last three away outings so they will be full confidence coming into Wednesday’s match.
Antonio Conte most likely will rest some of his star players with him attributing the weekend’s performance, and the early substitutions of both Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, to tiredness but the Italian will also be mindful of the poor first half performance at Carrow Road and try to create a good balance between resting his first teamers and putting on a good show for the Stamford Bridge fans on Wednesday night. One player I’ll personally be hoping to see from the start on Wednesday is Charly Musonda who’s been in such impressive form for the Chelsea Development teams particularly against Portsmouth in the EFL’s Checkatrade Trophy. He should come in in place of his compatriot Eden Hazard in the left side of our attack and I’m counting on him grabbing the opportunity with both hands just as he did against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup even though on that occasion he played alongside Hazard. Kenedy should again play as the left wingback in place of Marcos Alonso who will surely get the night off except Antonio Conte decides to give Davide Zappacosta a run out in that whilst playing academy upstart Dujon Sterling at right wingback with the youngster making his Chelsea bow in the 0-0 draw back at Carrow Road. Danny Drinkwater should also be restored back into the team after he was omitted from the team that drew with Leicester City at the weekend after he impressed against Arsenal last Wednesday. Even though Antonio Conte said in his post-match interview that Gary Cahill’s injury is not as serious as first feared the captain will still be out of the team for at least two weeks so the coach and the team will have to carry on without him. Under normal circumstances Cesar Azpilicueta may be rotated out of the team however that’s unlikely to happen with the injury to Cahill, but David Luiz may likely get another chance to impress again after making his return against the same opposition in early January. Cesc Fabregas will miss this match with a small hamstring problem as reported by Antonio Conte in his prematch conference. Ross Barkley may also get to make his Chelsea debut in this game especially if we made a fast start and build a comfortable lead. Willy Caballero should also resume duties between the sticks having been rested for the Carabao Cup semi-final match against Arsenal last midweek. Antonio Conte will surely be sending out a strong enough team to get the job done against the stubborn Canaries.
Caballero; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger; Zappacosta, Bakayoko, Drinkwater, Kenedy; Willian, Musonda; Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: DDDDW
Injuries: Gary Cahill (Hamstring) –Out; Cesc Fabregas (Hamstring) – Out.
Daniel Farke would have been very pleased with his players’ effort in the first match and will also feel they might have gone on and won the game based only on their first half performance because once Chelsea settled into the game the Canaries retreated hoping to catch us on the counter. Chelsea has played one more game than the Canaries since the two locked horns at Carrow Road earlier this month and that Norwich City’s match came this past weekend when they traveled to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City. For that match Farke continued his three at the back formation – which he used against Chelsea – with the trio of Grant Hanley, Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose playing at the heart of defence and that’s likely to be the three that face Chelsea on Wednesday should Farke decide to continue his newly-found 3-5-2 formation. With Tom Trybull unavailable through injury Farke brought in Mario Vrancic to partner Alex Tettey in central midfield and with Alex Pritchard’s move to Huddersfield imminent –the midfielders having since completed the move – he turned to Ivo Pinto, Joe Lewis and James Maddison to play behind strike duo Josh Murphy – who played all on his own against Chelsea at Carrow Road – and Nelson Oliveira. He’s likely to keep the same team against Chelsea and the formation may not be any different either.
Gunn; Hanley, Zimmermann, Klose; Pinto, Vrancic, Tettey, Lewis, Maddison; Murphy; Oliveira.
Last 5 matches: WDWDW
Injuries: Louis Thompson (Achilles tendon) – Out; Tom Trybull (Back) – Out.
Danny Drinkwater vs. James Maddison
The young James Maddison has been largely responsible for a better part of Norwich City’s attacking play. The midfielder has been directly involved in twelve league goals this season (7goals 5assists) and Drinkwater will have to be on his toes to limit the impact of the young English midfielder.
Michy Batshuayi vs. Christoph Zimmermann
Michy Batshuayi obviously still has a lot to prove to Antonio Conte to gain his utmost trust and Wednesday night presents him with another chance to do just that but in Zimmermann he has a man-mountain for an opponent. The German’s towering figure will make him almost impossible to beat for Michy hence the Belgian will have to improvise in order to get the better of Zimmermann.
David Luiz vs. Nelson Oliveira
This duel didn’t get a chance to materialise at Carrow Road ten days ago with the Portuguese starting that match on the bench but he’s likely to be leading the Norwich City’s attack at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and thus will the Brazilian’s return to the first eleven as tough as can be.
There’s no better way to say it than no other result will do for Chelsea than an outright victory, and a comfortable one at that, as the tension continues to build around Stamford Bridge with three 0-0 draws on the bounce. We certainly have got the players to score goals but the problem they’ve failed to take the numerous chances we’ve been creating and that’s massive cause for concerning with our Champions’ League against Barcelona drawing ever closer. A win in our next two fixtures, against Norwich City and Brighton & Hove Albion, will go a long way to settling frayed nerves and return confidence to the team ahead of a busy end to the season. I don’t care how it comes about but a win against Norwich City tomorrow night is very essential ahead of what’s a tricky trip to the Amex Stadium considering what we faced when Chris Hughton’s side visited Stamford Bridge in December. Hopefully we’ll be going to the Amex Stadium on the back of a comfortable win over Norwich City but until the weekend continue to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High! And good luck to the team tomorrow night.
Thumbnail image courtesy of: The Telegraph
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