Date: Saturday 5th February 2022
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
After a well-deserved break from a schedule designed with anything but player’s wellbeing in mind, it’s back to it today and another busy month ahead. First up, it’s Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup fourth round.
The visitors were top of League one late last year but after losing their manager to Preston in December, have slipped to seventh place, and have notably conceded 10 goals in their last four games. November and December did us no favours either although we do sit 3rd in the Premier League, so it could be worse.
We met Chesterfield in the last round and as well as coming away with a 5-1 win at Stamford Bridge, we also came away with a bit of a soft spot for the Spireites. We went into the break with a comfortable win against Sp*rs that stretched our unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge to 14 games. For the visitors, they saw off Birmingham City in the third round of the FA Cup and they come into today’s game off the back of a win against Doncaster last weekend.
With the team travelling to Abu Dhabi later today, and players absent either through injury or internationals, we’d expect some rotation but should still be wary of leaving ourselves exposed against an energetic side who aren’t afraid to attack.
Hopefully we’re well-rested and focused, otherwise it’ll be a long flight ahead.
Going into today’s game, Thomas Tuchel says “It’s very rare we have four training sessions to prepare a match. So it was very nice to freshen up some tactical elements and have a physical input that was more than normal. We feel very prepared, and it was also necessary because we respect the opponent, the competition and the situation that for them it’s a unique game and opportunity to show, in a situation where they have absolutely nothing to lose. So we have to be prepared for that and, of course, we have now one week where we play the FA Cup, the semi-final and then hopefully the final in the Club World Cup. So we want to be prepared for all of that
Of course, it would be a big surprise [if we don’t win] but it wouldn’t be the first surprise in 150 years of the FA Cup. We better be realistic about it that we are the favourites and what we demand of ourselves in this match. At the same time, we respect the game and anything can happen. That’s the beauty of this game. That’s why everybody is in love with football. So we better respect it and be serious. Of course, it is in our hands and hopefully, it stays in our hands. From there we need to prove it. We can’t hide the fact that we are huge favourites.
After [the Chesterfield players] were in the dressing room, swapping shirts and talking to the players. They don’t lose contact because they play in front of their away supporters at Stamford Bridge. It was a huge boost and it will be like this for Plymouth. Let’s be very honest. We could easily say that it is the best day in their career but we want to turn it into one of the worst days of their career because we want to beat them. We want to make things clear that we are still the better team and side. We don’t want them to have the best time of their life or a very good experience at Stamford Bridge. How do we do this? We respect the team, treat them well and have a strong team on the pitch tomorrow to make it to the next round. The rules are the rules and I am happy that we have a home match.”
Plymouth manager Steven Schumacher, meanwhile, says “It’s brilliant. In my 10th ever game in charge as manager I’m going up against the European champions and a world-class manager in Thomas Tuchel, who has had so much success. If someone had said this to me a couple of weeks ago I’d say they were mad. All the lads are really excited and looking forward to Saturday and everyone’s got smiles on their faces this week. We’ve just asked the players to try to enjoy the experience. While we’re going there as massive underdogs we want to go there and soak it all up. They have worked really hard in the first three rounds to get to this stage and this is a time now when we can enjoy it and give it our best shot and put out a performance that the fans can be proud of. Everyone is desperate to play because it is such a big occasion for them. A lot of lads won’t have played at Premier League stadiums before and they all want to be on the team sheet, but they all understand that I can only pick 11 players.”
For Chelsea, Ben Chilwell (knee) remains out long term and Edouard Mendy remains on international duty with Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, whilst Christian Pulisic and Thiago Silva are unavailable after internationals. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (knock) and Reece James (hamstring) also miss out but Andreas Christensen (Covid) and Trevoh Chalobah (hamstring) are back.
For Plymouth, Brendan Galloway and George Cooper (both knee) remain out but Danny Mayor (back) is fit and Panutche Camara could feature after returning from AFCON.
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Kepa; Hall, Chalobah, Sarr, Azpilicueta, Saul, Kovacic, Kenedy, Ziyech, Havertz, Werner
PLYMOUTH (Possible line-up): Cooper; Edwards, Gillesphey, Scarr, Wilson, Grant; Camara, Houghton; Broom; Garrick, Jephcott
CURRENT FORM (ALL)
Plymouth 0-1 Chelsea (18th February 1989) League Division Two
- This will be the first meeting since February 1989
- Plymouth’s last win against Chelsea was in the League Cup in 1979
- Plymouth have lost their last three FA Cup meetings with Chelsea
· Chelsea are aiming to progress from the FA Cup fourth round for the 25th time in 28 seasons
· Chelsea have won 10 of their last 11 FA Cup games at Stamford Bridge
- Plymouth haven’t reached the FA Cup fifth round since 2006/7
- Chelsea haven’t gone out in the fourth round since 2014/15
BBC Sport: Chelsea 3-0 Plymouth
Sportsmole: Chelsea 4-1 Plymouth