Chelsea welcome League One side Peterborough United to Stamford Bridge for their third round FA Cup tie.
The Blues will be looking to bounce back after a shock defeat at White Hart Lane against cross town rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Antonio Conte’s winning streak was ended by Mauricio Pochettino’s side and the Italian will be desperate to get back to winning ways.
Peterborough United currently sit at 8th place in the third tier of English football, but have been on a good run of form off late. Their last defeat came in the month of November last year against Scunthorpe United, after which they have been on an 8 match unbeaten streak.
Antonio Conte will have a fully fit squad to pick from with no new injuries. The departures of midfielders Marco Van Ginkel on loan and club legend John Obi Mikel to China would have likely helped ease Antonio Conte’s selection headache for this tie.
Given the nature of this tie, it is likely that a few fringe players and youngsters will get a look-in. John Terry and Kurt Zouma have both returned from injury and are available for selection as confirmed by Antonio Conte, and both are ready to feature against the Posh.
With tomorrow’s starting XI likely to feature players who haven’t featured that much, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, N’golo Kante, Marcos Alonso and Nemanja Matic will all be probably rested. Some of them might however, start the game on the bench.
Begovic is almost certain to start the tie. Youngster Ola Aina, who has impressed when given the chance, can also be expected to start at right wing-back. Both Pedro and Willian will likely start in the front three, after having to battle it out for the right wing position for most of the season.
Nathaniel Chalobah may very well start this game alongside Cesc Fabregas. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has a lot of speculation surrounding his immediate future, is another option. Michy Batshuayi is another player who is most likely set to start tomorrow ahead of Diego Costa.
The italian will also have the option of using a 3-5-2 formation. Having another body in midfield will allow Matic or Kante to start and Batshuayi could start alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek upfront, with the latter playing a deeper role.
Despite losing against Tottenham midweek, it is unlikely that Chelsea will be willing to change anything about their style of play going into this tie. Their now standard 3-4-3 formation should be the way to go along with the high pressure, counter attacks and wing play that comes with it.
Predicted Starting XI (3-4-3): Begovic; Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Chalobah, Fabregas, Aina; Pedro, Batshuayi, Willian
In both previous fixtures of this clash, Chelsea have put 5 goals past Peterborough. The sixth round of the FA Cup in 1965 which ended 5-1 and the 2001 third round of the same competition which ended 5-0.
Chelsea have lost just 1 of their previous 35 fixtures against lower league teams in the FA Cup.
Peterborough have not got the better of a Premier League side in the FA Cup since Arsenal in 1965.
Chelsea’s loss against Tottenham was their first in all competitions since October last year.
Peterborough go into this tie having won just 3 of their last 7 games, with the other 4 being a draw.
Chelsea 3-0 Peterborough
It is difficult to see Chelsea not win this tie comprehensively. It is likely that the Blues will field some youngsters and some players who haven’t featured in the first team regularly, but given the quality within their ranks, they have no excuse for not winning this convincingly.
Nathan Aké set to be recalled by Chelsea, reveals Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe
Well, that escalated quickly.
We had just finished talking about how Antonio Conte was considering the “interesting opportunity” of possibly recalling Nathan Aké from his loan at AFC Bournemouth, when Cherries’ boss Eddie Howe dropped this bombshell — “It looks like that will be the case, it’s not 100% finalised yet”.
Bournemouth manager Howe's update on Nathan Ake Chelsea return: "It looks like that will be the case, it's not 100% finalised yet." #CFC
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) January 7, 2017
Howe was speaking after Bournemouth’s shocking 3-0 loss to Millwall in the FA Cup, a game in which Aké did not feature. This makes him not cup-tied for FA Cup matches going forward, which will be appealing to wherever he ends up for the second-half of the season … which, surprisingly, is increasingly looking like is going to be with Chelsea.
While many had been calling for Aké’s integration into the first-team squad, surely this was not how we might have imagined it. Perhaps the recent departures of both Oscar and Mikel has forced our hand?
Either way, I suspect there will be official confirmation of this sooner rather than later.
Paul Merson: This Chelsea star is player of the season, he’s been outstanding
Paul Merson has picked Diego Costa as the player of the season so far following his sparkling displays for Chelsea.
The Spanish striker has been in sublime form for the west London club so far this season and has played a key role in helping Chelsea build a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.
The 28-year-old has scored 14 goals and made five assists in the Premier League so far this term to help Antonio Conte’s men establish themselves as the firm favourites to win the title this season.
Costa is widely regarded to be one of the top strikers in Europe, and former Arsenal star Merson feels that the Spaniard has been the Premier League’s top performer so far this season.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Merson said: “I’m going to go for Costa. He’s been outstanding. I think he’s the one who has been dragging Chelsea along when they were winning but weren’t playing that well.
“He’s scoring important goals and is head and shoulders above what he was last year.”