A Blue Up North previews our FA Cup tie away at Leicester.
This weekend gives Chelsea the chance to bounce back from being knocked out of the Champions League during the week with an FA Cup quarter final match away at Leicester. The tie pits the 2 most recent Premier League champions against one another in the last of this rounds ties.
The FA Cup is still very special to all fans but as a consequence of the huge amounts of money and commercialism surrounding the Premier League there are no replays from this round onwards in what is still really the greatest cup competition.
Antonio Conte has no new injury concerns but is still without David Luiz and Ross Barkley. Although most people will talk up Chelsea’s need for a top 4 league finish, the Italian is still desperate to win his first domestic cup competition as manager and he is a huge fan of the FA Cup. So we can expect to see a strong line up, potentially the same XI that started against Barcelona. After all next weekend is an international weekend so The Blues do not return to action til Sunday 1 April at home to Spurs.
Conte’s biggest decision will be who to play in goal. Willy Caballero has played all of this season’s cup matches, while Thibaut Courtois did not cover himself in glory in Camp Nou. However it was at the quarter final stage last season when the Belgian took over the keeping duties.
Otherwise, we may see one or both wing backs rested, while Danny Drinkwater may get a run out at his old club, but I do expect to see Olivier Giroud still start ahead of Alvaro Morata as the recognised central striker.
Claude Puel only has Daniel Amartey missing and his side have returned to form with are unbeaten in eight at home. Riyad Mahrez has now been reintegrated into the team and Jamie Vardy is back scoring goals. The Blues will do very well to keep these 2 match winners quiet.
So, a match that could be too hard to call beforehand could be settled by very small margins or by one calamitous mistake. Puel was trying to big up his side’s underdog status despite a number of pundits believing The Foxes will prevail.
Leicester last reached the FA Cup quarter finals in 2012, when they lost 5-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. In fact the last three times the clubs have met in the FA Cup, (in 1997, 2000 and 2012) Chelsea have gone on to lift the trophy in the final.
Let’s hope The Blues can continue that run til at least May.
Written by Jon Ellis. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue