Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Chelsea vs Malmo Match Preview (21/02/19): Blues Have Nowhere to Hide in Do-or-Die Game

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With six months in the job under his belt, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea should not be playing ‘confused’ football; as the manager described the team’s efforts in the 0-2 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday.

The Italian has had plenty of time to work with his players, and by now they really ought to know his tactics inside and out.

But yet again, the Blues delivered a disjointed performance against the rampant United, and individual errors once again cost us dearly.

Quite why David Luiz sauntered out to close down Marcus Rashford as if he was having a gentle stroll in the countryside is anybody’s guess, but naturally the England international had the time to pick out a cross for Paul Pogba, who the rest of our defence watched sprint 20 yards or so to connect with the header.

As for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s attempts at keeping out Pogba’s effort…well, the less said the better.

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We showed occasional glimpses going forward, with Gonzalo Higuain in particular looking lively, but it was another fairly lacklustre effort and the fans inside Stamford Bridge let everybody know about it.

Chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ emanated from both the home and away ends, while the names of Frank Lampard and John Terry were sung as the home faithful made their opinions known.

Will Sarri survive the week in charge? You suspect he might…but only if we get the result against Malmo in the Europa League last 32 second leg on Thursday.

“We played confused football in the second half, but in the first half we played well,” was his reflection afterwards.

“I'm worried about the result but not about the fans' reaction, because I understand the situation. I can understand our fans because the result wasn't really good and we are out of the FA Cup.

“I was really worried when I was in League Two in Italy, not now.”

Chelsea Team News

The manager played what is ostensibly his strongest starting eleven against United, and so that would lead us to assume changes will be made for Thursday’s tie.

It’s a risky strategy, mind you, as Malmo should not be underestimated. We have two away goals, true, but you just never now. And, clearly, defeat will spell the end of Sarri’s tenure in charge.

So expect Kepa to start in goal, with possibly Andres Christensen partnering Antonio Rudiger in the middle of defence and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right and Emerson Palmieri on the left.

Midfield is a conundrum, but we would expect Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus Cheek to start…possibly with Jorginho in his normal sitting role.

In attack, as much as the budding partnership between Higuain and Hazard is exciting, both will presumably be given the evening off here with Olivier Giroud, Willian and – hopefully – Callum Hudson-Odoi being let off the leash.

Chelsea vs Malmo Head to Head

As mentioned in our preview of the first leg of this tie, that was the first time that Chelsea and Malmo had met in competitive action.

As such, we can boast a 100% record against our Swedish opponents…for the time being at least!

How the Match Will Be Won

So what did we learn from the first leg?

First up, Malmo were happy to sit in, make themselves compact and let us pass the ball around. The Blues enjoyed 74% possession, and played 759 passes compared to the Swedes’ 268.

They mustered just two shots on target – one of which they scored from, and to be honest they looked a mirror image of the Swedish national side that grinded their way to the knockout stages of the World Cup last summer.

The context at the Bridge is much different, of course. Malmo will need to score twice to have a chance of progressing – one away goal won’t be enough – and that will surely predicate that they go about their business a little differently on Thursday.

You wouldn’t imagine that front-foot football will suit them at all, and if they do throw bodies forward then our pace on the break – particularly Willian and Hudson-Odoi on the flanks and Loftus-Cheek through the middle – would be devastating.

If Chelsea score, this tie as a contest is all but over. So let’s hope there’s no ‘confusing’ football from the Blues, and they get that early goal that will enable them to play in confident fashion.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Chelsea vs Manchester United Match Preview (18/02/19): Magic of the Cup Rubbing Off On the Blues

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Given our woes in the league, the various cup competitions are providing Chelsea with a very welcome distraction right now.

Into the final of the Carabao Cup, we also have one foot in the last 16 of the Europa League after a 2-1 win in Malmo on Thursday.

In a move which showed his desire to progress in the competition – winning it might be our best of a Champions League place next season, after all – Maurizio Sarri named a strong starting eleven, and was rewarded with a decent performance to win back some confidence lost in the 0-6 hammering against Manchester City.

Ross Barkley opened the scoring, toe-poking home after a Pedro cross made its way to him in the penalty area, before Olivier Giroud doubled our advantage with a cheeky flicked finish following good work from Willian.

That should have been that, but a momentary lapse of concentration allowed the Swedes to pull one back in the 80th minute.

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Hopefully, that should prove to be nothing more than a consolation goal in the grand scheme of things, and with two away goals in the locker we should enjoy serene progress from next week’s second leg at the Bridge.

In the understatement of the century, Sarri said afterwards that his team needs to be more consistent. “In the last period we've had the problem of up and down, up and down.

“You know very well that, if you are in bad mental condition in England, in 10 days you can lose three or four very important matches. So we need consistency. We have to approach every match in the same way.”

Hopefully, that resonates with the players ahead of Monday’s FA Cup fifth round tie with Manchester United. Victory there would take us one step further to another cup final….which ultimately might see Sarri keep his job come the end of the season.

Chelsea Team News

With a decent four-day gap before our next match, the manager decided to field a strong eleven in Sweden.

The likes of Azpilicueta, Luiz, Jorginho and Pedro all started, perhaps surprisingly so, and that indicates Sarri’s aspirations in the Europa League.

They could all still start against United on Monday, such is the recovery time, and we expect the manager to name his best possible eleven in order to progress to the last eight of the FA Cup.

The only injury doubt is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is struggling with his back, but otherwise Sarri has a full quota to work with.

Chelsea vs Manchester United Head to Head

We can delve into the history books to examine the history between these two storied outfits, but perhaps the most pertinent stat is the one that governs the modern day.

In the last 17 clashes between the two sides, Chelsea have only lost twice, with nine wins and six draws.

Our unbeaten run against United at Stamford Bridge extends back to 2012, and so we have every right to be confident ahead of Monday’s game!

For those that enjoy a deeper look at the head-to-heads, Chelsea have won 54 of the 181 competitive meetings between the two teams, with 50 draws and 77 United victories.

How the Match Will Be Won

As we know, Manchester United are flying under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s management, with lots of wins and just a solitary defeat to PSG in the Champions League on Tuesday.

To be fair, the job he’s done hasn’t exactly been rocket scientist: shaking off the conservatism that dogged Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford (and Stamford Bridge, for that matter, in his latter years), he set his best attacking talents free and removed the shackles from Paul Pogba.

Now, the United players are proving their worth, and as of right now they are one of the most dangerous teams in the land.

But the loss to the Parisians may have knocked them a bit, and injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial may just complicate matters.

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Nevertheless, we will have to be at our best to see them off, particularly given their improved attacking impetus of late.

They have kept clean sheets in each of their last four away games in the league, and that tells us just how difficult they will be to beat.

But as we know, this Chelsea side is capable of anything across the course of a 90-minute game; from the sublime to the ridiculous. If Hazard and Higuain bring their best, we can certainly get the job done on Monday evening.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Malmo vs Chelsea Match Preview (14/02/19): Blues Players Need to Show Some Love on Valentine’s Day

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Some home truths have hit the mark this past week for Chelsea fans.

Simply, we cannot compete with the elite sides at the moment, as displayed in the 0-6 hammering at the hands of Manchester City on Sunday.

Is the Sarri-ball revolution a myth? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it is evident that we don’t have a Plan B to turn to when our possession-based game doesn’t yield a breakthrough.

And the manager really does need to consider why he is playing N’Golo Kante, a two-time Premier League winner and World Cup champion as a defensive midfielder, in an advanced role while Jorginho, a sublime passer of the ball, really ought to be linking up play higher up the pitch.

In our last three away outings we have lost each to a combined score of 0-12, and that really is despicable for a side aiming for Champions League qualification this season.

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Of course, the players have to shoulder some of the responsibility too. Remember how they folded in Jose Mourinho’s fateful final campaign, or how they behaved like spoilt kids towards the end of Antonio Conte’s reign? The parallels are alarmingly similar.

According to the papers, Sarri has a month to save his skin; a month that encompasses this two-legged Europa League tie against Malmo, the Carabao Cup final, an FA Cup Fifth Round clash with Manchester United and a league date with Tottenham. It doesn’t look good for the Italian.

He should be given more time to rebuild the squad in his own vision, that much we do know, and it would be a shame if the Italian is shown the exit door.

That said, a drastic improvement is essential….starting on Thursday against Malmo.

Chelsea Team News

There are two ways to look at team selection for this game.

We need to win it, there’s no doubt it, and for that reason Sarri might be tempted to play his strongest available eleven….whatever that is right now.

More likely, he will go with the fringe players once again, and give them an opportunity to stake a claim for a starting berth.

Kepa will probably start in goal – he has done in other Europa League ties, with Zappacosta, Christensen, Ampadu and Emerson at the back.

In midfield, Mateo Kovacic may be forced into playing the anchor man role, with Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in front of him.

In attack, well, there is a vacancy for a right winger….so Callum Hudson-Odoi and Willian should treat the visit to Sweden as a dress rehearsal. Through the middle, Olivier Giroud will be looking to make a nuisance of himself as ever.

Malmo vs Chelsea Head to Head

This will be the first time that Chelsea and Malmo have locked horns in competitive football.

The Swedes have kept a low profile in continental football, and they are perhaps best remembered for their 2015/16 Champions League campaign when they lost 0-4, 0-5 and 0-8 to Shakhtar Donetsk, PSG and Real Madrid.

The last time they faced British opposition was in qualification for the 2013/14 Europa League. They beat Hibernian 9-0 on aggregate, before going down 0-4 to Swansea.

How the Match Will Be Won

Malmo are currently on their break in the bleak Swedish winter with their domestic season yet to start, and they haven’t played a competitive match since December.

That can work both ways: their players will be well rested, of course, but will they be rusty and lacking that competitive edge? It’s certainly possible, and that should be an advantage for us.

Malmo will play either 4-4-2 or 5-3-2, and the emphasis will be on not conceding an away goal here.

As such, we will enjoy plenty of possession – when don’t we? – but the difference here is that we really need to make it count. No slow tempo, sideways passing; let’s get the ball forward in straight lines that breaks through the Swedes’ organisation.

Malmo’s top goalscorer last season was Jo-Inge Berget, but he has since left the club and with just ten goals he was hardly the most prolific of frontmen anyway.

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Like the Swedish national side at the World Cup, Malmo will be tough to break down, with deep lying midfielders and forwards that drop in to support when not in possession, which will be often.

What we need is our dynamic, forward-moving players – think Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi and Willian – to break the lines and create space by dragging their opponents out of position.

It could be an evening of hard slog, but our greater match fitness should ultimately yield the result that Sarri wants and needs.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Manchester City vs Chelsea Match Preview (10/02/19): Will It Be Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde for the Blues on Sunday?

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It would be fair to say that, right now, this Chelsea side has something of a multiple personality complex.

Hopeless against Arsenal and Bournemouth, inspired against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup, the Blues once again proved the detractors wrong with a sublime showing in the 5-0 win against Huddersfield last time out.

Let’s be under no illusions: we fully expected to beat the Terriers, and anything but the three points would have been considered a minor disaster.

But there’s winning and then there’s winning with style, and it would be accurate to conclude that the Blues’ romp fell firmly into the latter category.

Most salivating of all was the link-up play between Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard, who ended up with two goals apiece and who looked to be perfect footballing foils. For a long time we’ve been crying out for someone with the Argentine’s intelligent play and clever runs into space, and it’s quite possible that he can help to elevate Hazard’s game to even greater heights.

Maurizio Sarri certainly seems to agree with that estimation. “Higuain is improving. He wasn't physically at the top when he arrived, because he had a back problem and wasn't involved, so only played a few matches,” the manager said.

“He is a great player. Apart from the goals, he is really very suitable to play very close to Eden.”
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David Luiz popped up late to add the fifth goal and complete the scoring on a fantastic day for the club.

Of course, much more difficult tests are yet to come, and arguably they don’t come any tougher than Sunday’s assignment against Manchester City.

Back in the thick of the title mix, Pep Guardiola’s side are back in form and will be desperate for the three points in this dress rehearsal for the Carabao Cup later in the month.

As for us, just maintaining the good vibes from the Huddersfield game is key.

Chelsea Team News

There are no new injury concerns for Sarri to consider, and so from that perspective there really is no need to change a starting eleven that purred on Saturday.

That would mean Andreas Christensen keeping his place at the expense of Antonio Rudiger, with Marcos Alonso seemingly welcomed back into the fold in place of Emerson.

In midfield, Ross Barkley was preferred to Mateo Kovacic against Huddersfield – will that continue against City?

In attack, we are simply ravenous with the prospect of Higuain and Hazard linking up again, with Willian also contributing from the right flank.

Manchester City vs Chelsea Head to Head

Despite occasional gaps of a few years, the rise, fall and rise again of Chelsea and Manchester City have been spookily linked.

In the ‘good old days’ we sort of rose up and down the leagues together, regularly locking hors in the top flight and the second tier.

We became more settled from the 1990s onwards, although it took City a bit more time to become a first division regular again.

And then the foreign investment cam for both clubs, and we all know how that story has panned out thus far.

All in all, we’ve met on 161 occasions, with Chelsea winning 55 and losing 67. In the modern era we’ve shared the bulk of our meetings, with one draw in the last ten, four Chelsea victories and five for City.

How the Match Will Be Won

You can never be quite sure of which players Pep Guardiola will deploy; he is a tinker man in his own right. But one thing that is for sure is that whoever he brings in will be high quality.

There are no weaknesses in this City side, and even with Aymeric Laporte covering at left back they remain defensively sound. Clearly, Hazard drifting off the left and linking up with Higuain in pockets of space in front of their defence will be key.

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There could be a good old battle in midfield, with our trio locking horns with three of Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Gundogan or David Silva in the middle of the park.

In wide areas, the danger is our full backs becoming exposed against the pace of Raheem Sterling and the guile of Bernardo Silva. We would not be surprised at all to see N’Golo Kante deployed in the deeper role for which he became best known at Leicester and in our title-winning campaign.

We want Willian to stay wide here and occupy Laporte, which would leave Hazard and Higuain up against, perhaps a central defensive partnership of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. It’s certainly an area of the field we can exploit with relish.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Chelsea vs Huddersfield Town Match Preview (02/02/19): Blues Must Find Their Bite Against the Terriers

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In football, as in life, there is nothing more frustrating than taking one step forward followed by two back.

We were guilty of it ourselves in our preview of the Bournemouth game, titling it ‘Blues Back In the Zone After Cup Magic’. How wrong we were.

Of course, you can forgive us for the error given the nature of the beast. We had secured a place in the final of the Carabao Cup with a rollicking performance against Spurs, and then followed up with a comfortable victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.

We certainly weren’t expecting to be beaten so comprehensively by Bournemouth on Wednesday evening.

As we also alluded to in that preview, the Cherries are a dangerous side under Eddie Howe’s front foot style, but even they must have been surprised with the ease with which they cut through our defence.

After a goalless first half, Bournemouth ran riot in the second, blasting four goals without reply in what was one of the Blues’ more spineless performances in recent years.

Yes, we had chances, and Cherries keeper Artur Boruc saved well from Mateo Kovacic early on, but once again this was a performance of style over substance in the one area that the beautiful game is truly governed by: putting the ball in the back of the net.

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Quite frankly, we are over reliant on the brilliance of Eden Hazard, and unless Gonzalo Higuain comes to the party in the next couple of months our hopes of a top four finish look slim.

It’s hard to say if Saturday’s game against Huddersfield at the Bridge has come at a good or bad time.

The Terriers are the weakest side in the Premier League, as proven by the naked eye and the league table, and with a new manager at the helm they are a side in transition and, perhaps, becoming accustomed to the idea of relegation.

That gives them a free hit against us at the weekend then, with all eyes on Maurizio Sarri’s mis-firing Blues. It will be interesting to see if his players show an appetite for the fight….

Chelsea Team News

With his team selection in recent weeks, Sarri has made his thoughts known.

It’s now confirmed that Emerson Palmieri is his first choice left back, with indifferent performances from Marcos Alonso costing him his place in the side.

And in midfield, Mateo Kovacic continues to retain his place at the expense of Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and others.

It appears as though the manager will place all his faith in Higuain as the central striker, while Willian may be recalled to the starting eleven at the expense of Pedro on Saturday.

Otherwise, it’s very much a case of as you were as we look to get our league campaign back on track.

Chelsea vs Huddersfield Town Head to Head

The majority of the 67 meetings between Chelsea and Huddersfield came in the first half of the 20th century, when the Terriers were very much a top flight outfit.

Such encounters have been sparse in recent times, and the three Premier League clashes we have had since the Yorkshiremen returned to the top flight are the only contests to have taken place in the past decade.

We’ve won 3-0 and 3-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium, although the Terriers managed to nick a point at the Bridge last season in a 1-1 draw.

How the Match Will Be Won

There’s a new man at the helm of Huddersfield in Jan Siewert, but his task of keeping the club in the Premier League is a mountainous one.

He simply does not have the quality at his disposal to win top flight football matches, and while there is a touch of class to Aaron Mooy and the likes of Steven Mounie and Laurent Depoitre in attack are a handful, it’s not enough to accumulate the necessary amount of points for survival.

But they aren’t called the Terriers for nothing, and the nickname sums up their playing style rather well: this is a hard-working, diligent team that makes up for its lack of class with sheer bloody endeavour.

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We will have to match them in that department, no doubt about it, and hope that our extra class ultimately wins the day.

Huddersfield will probably line up in a 4-4-1-1 style set-up, and the onus will be on us to make something happen. And we’re not talking pretty passing movements, as the Blues can rightly be accused of. We mean actual end product.

Our visitors have scored the lowest amount of goals in the Premier League this season, and have won 1/11 on the road. If we don’t triumph on Saturday, it’s hard to know where we will go from there.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Bournemouth vs Chelsea Match Preview (30/01/19): Blues Back in the Zone After Week of Cup Glory

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There were no alarms and no great surprises as Chelsea swept past Sheffield Wednesday and into the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Willian’s brace, which included the Brazilian’s 50th goal for the club, did the bulk of the heavy lifting, with a third goal coming from Callum Hudson-Odoi, less than 24 hours after he handed in a transfer request to force through a move to Bayern Munich.

Elsewhere, there was a debut in a blue shirt for recent capture Gonzalo Higuain, who looked hungry and made plenty of threatening runs in behind the Wednesday defence, while Ethan Ampadu looked assured as he continues his footballing education.

And there was even a chance for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been on the sidelines of late, to work his way back to match fitness by playing the bulk of the second half.

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“It's certainly a good result, we're very happy. We know how difficult these cup ties can be. Everyone made a really good effort,” said assistant boss Gianfranco Zola afterwards.

“We performed very well against Spurs, and again today after the first few minutes.”

After a pair of cup triumphs it’s back to the day job this week, and that starts with a trip to the south coast to take on Bournemouth on Wednesday evening.

Victory would put a significant amount of pressure on Tottenham in third place. They are wobbling right now, and so Maurizio Sarri will be determined to get the three points against a dangerous but beatable Bournemouth side.

Chelsea Team News

For the first time in what feels like an eternity, Sarri has his full quota of players to work with.

Kepa Arrizabalaga will return in goal, and David Luiz will presumably start at centre half in place of Andreas Christensen.

N’Golo Kante and Jorginho will surely be restored to the midfield, with the third body in the middle of the park up for debate. The manager doesn’t seem to really fancy Mateo Kovacic at the moment, so perhaps it will be Ross Barkley who gets the nod.

There are options, at last, in attack. Eden Hazard and Pedro, both given the evening off against the Owls, will presumably come in on the flanks, while through the middle Sarri has the luxury of choosing between Higuain or Olivier Giroud.

The Argentine will eventually become first choice, but as he continues to get used to our playing style perhaps he will watch on from the subs’ bench here. Giroud hasn’t let anybody down of late, and the Frenchman served up an assist for Willian’s second goal on Sunday.

Bournemouth vs Chelsea Head to Head

There have been just 14 meetings between these two sides, which highlights Bournemouth’s rather belated rise to the top flight of English football.

There was a handful of cup ties played out in the 1980s and 90s, but we’re more interested in the period since 2015/16, when the Cherries were promoted to the top flight.

In that time we have won seven of the nine contests played, including each of our three visits to their Vitality Stadium home.

How the Match Will Be Won

It must be enjoyable being a Bournemouth fan: they don’t always get the results they want, but they go about their business in the most entertaining of ways.

Take away the ‘big six’, and the Cherries have scored more goals than any other side in the Premier League.

And yet, their goals against tally of 42 is only beaten by Burnley, Cardiff and Fulham.

Eddie Howe’s men play open, expansive football that offers opportunities and threats to their opponents in equal measure.

He will field ‘proper’ wingers, probably Ryan Fraser and David Brooks, with Josh King through the middle; the absence of Callum Wilson to injury may prevent Howe from utilising his normal 4-4-2 system.

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Clearly, their issues are defensive ones, and a back four of Clyne, Cook, former Chelsea man Nathan Ake and Adam Smith does little to reassure Cherries fans.

Bournemouth are typically very strong on home soil (W6 D3 L3), but they have conceded 17 goals in 12 games in front of their own supporters, and that shows why Chelsea must play on the front foot on Wednesday.

With the likes of Hazard, Pedro and Kante well rested, we will be expecting to win a possibly high-scoring contest.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Chelsea vs Sheffield Wednesday Match Preview (27/01/19): More Cup Magic from the Blues

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On reflection, Maurizio Sarri saying publicly that his Chelsea players were ‘extremely difficult to motivate’ last week might just have been a PR masterclass.

The Italian’s pre-match team talk had been done for him, and surely his squad would turn up with the bit between their teeth for Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg with Tottenham, right?

Absolutely. It may have taken us penalties to get the job done, but there can be no doubting that once the dust had settled, this was very much a deserved victory.

After a lively opening half hour, N’Golo Kante somehow squeezed a shot through a ruck of legs to level the tie at one apiece. Game on.

Less than ten minutes later, Eden Hazard – of whom Sarri had said ‘I prefer it when he talks with his feet’ following an ill-judged interview about his future at the club – fired in a second to cap a man-of-the-match performance. The manager once again had gotten his ‘motivatory’ tactics spot on.

Fernando Llorente got one back for Spurs in the second period, and that was enough to send the tie into a penalty shootout with away goals not used in this competition.

Willian, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho showed great composure to find the net with their spot kicks, while Kepa Arrizabalaga made a great save to deny Lucas Moura.

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When Eric Dier blazed over, it was left to David Luiz to slot home and fire Chelsea into our fifteenth cup final in just sixteen years!

We have, technically, an opportunity to make that a perfect 16-in-16 in the FA Cup, in which we host Sheffield Wednesday at the Bridge on Sunday in a fourth round tie.

It’s not a tie we expect Sarri to take all too seriously, even if the chance to showcase new signing Gonzalo Higuain will get fans on the terraces talking.

Chelsea Team News

The manager made a raft of changes for the FA Cup third round win over Nottingham Forest, and we expect him to do likewise against another Championship opponent here.

Willy Caballero got the nod in goal that day, and there’s no reason why he won’t start again on Sunday either.

Davide Zappacosta could come in at right back, while at centre half Andreas Christensen could come in to partner either David Luiz or Antonio Rudiger – probably the latter. At left back, Marcos Alonso’s surprise dropping on Thursday may mean he starts here.

In midfield, there might be opportunities for Kante and Jorginho to put their feet up, with Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic being joined by youngster Ethan Ampadu in the middle of the park.

In attack, will we see Higuain? Possibly not from the start, although the Argentine has taken part in his first couple of training sessions at the club. More likely is that Olivier Giroud will lead the line, with Higuain making an appearance from the substitutes bench.

On the flanks, Willian – who played barely 15 minutes against Spurs, might come in on the right with Callum Hudson-Odoi – assuming he’s still at the club at this point – starting on the left.

Chelsea vs Sheffield Wednesday Head to Head

This was a common fixture from the dawn of the professional game up until the 1990s, when Sheffield Wednesday’s fall from grace began.

Indeed, there have been more than 120 encounters between us, with the Blues winning 37, the Owls 41 and 46 draws.

The last time we collided was in April 2000, when Wednesday triumphed 1-0 against a Chelsea side containing such luminaries as Bernard Lambourde, Emerson Thome and Gabriel Ambrosetti!

How the Match Will Be Won

Sheffield Wednesday have improved of late in the Championship, with a run of W2 D2 L1 since Christmas, but surely a professional performance form Chelsea will be enough to get the job done here.

It was certainly enough for Nottingham Forest in the third round, while the Owls needed a replay to see off League One outfit Luton Town.

Wednesday are currently being managed by caretaker boss Steve Agnew, with new permanent appointment Steve Bruce deciding to see through his bucket list moment – watching England play test cricket in the Caribbean – rather than taking the reins immediately at the Yorkshire club!

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Agnew has done okay though, and will set up his side in a 4-1-4-1 system, with a lone frontman – possibly Steven Fletcher – supported by the likes of Adam Reach, who possesses a fine long range shot, and George Boyd.

Hard working, well organised, combative….those are just some of the adjectives used to describe this Sheffield Wednesday side, but quality is not another and so anything approaching a solid display from us should be enough to see the Blues into the FA Cup fifth round hat.