FA Cup holders Chelsea kick-start their involvement in this season’s competition against Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
The Blues have been handed a third-round tie against lower league opposition for a sixth consecutive season, with Aitor Karanka’s Nottingham Forest currently plying their trade in the Sky Bet Championship.
Tomorrow’s match comes at a time where Maurizio Sarri’s side certainly need to re-discover their home form, having not won or scored at the Bridge in their previous two matches.
Their opponents go into the match having beaten Championship leaders Leeds United 4-2 at the City Ground on New Year’s Day.
Sarri will certainly have been looking at this match as a potential opportunity to rotate his team, however, a recent flurry of injuries makes his team selection more difficult than he initially would have liked.
Here is who we are predicting will start for the Blues in their first meeting with the Tricky Trees since they hammered them 5-1 in last season’s Carabao Cup.
Predicted line-up: (4-3-3) Willy Caballero; Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen, Gary Cahill, Emerson; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley; Victor Moses, Alvaro Morata, Callum Hudson-Odoi
Predicted substitutes: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Ethan Ampadu, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard
Club-record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga has started in Chelsea’s last six matches and Sarri will want to rest him ahead of a congested few weeks of fixtures, meaning that Willy Caballero could make just his fourth competitive start of the season.
The back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso have started 20 out of 21 Premier League matches together this season, and with a Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Tottenham Hotspur taking place just three days after the Forest clash, Sarri could completely reshuffle his defensive pack. Therefore, Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen, Gary Cahill and Emerson could all feature, making rare starts.
Cesc Fabregas’ future at the club has been highly debated, with many reports suggesting that against Forest, the Spaniard will make his 198th and final appearance for the Blues. He and Ruben Loftus-Cheek could take the places of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in the starting side, where Ross Barkley is likely to keep his place on the left of the three-man midfield.
With Willian, Olivier Giroud and Pedro all ruled out through injury, Chelsea’s wide options are limited, meaning that Victor Moses could emerge from the fringes to make his first appearance for the Blues since October’s win over BATE Borisov. Alvaro Morata could lead the line and will be hoping to end his current struggles in front of goal with winger Callum Hudson-Odoi back from injury and in contention to complete the side.
Chelsea’s struggles in the scoring department may be a stumbling block for them, but Forest’s lack of clean sheets in recent matches may come at the perfect time for Sarri’s side.
Score prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Nottingham Forest