Sam Plummer provides an insight ahead of the upcoming Emirates FA Cup tie between Chesterfield and Chelsea.
Regardless of the result, the third round tie will live long in the memories for fans of Chesterfield as the Spireites travel to West London for a dream fixture against Champions League holders Chelsea.
Highlighting the true beauty of the oldest cup competition in the world, fifth tier Chesterfield have the opportunity to go head-to-head with one of the most successful clubs in both domestic and continental football of the modern era.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has been highly praised since replacing club legend Frank Lampard in January 2021, although his men did narrowly face defeat in last season’s final against Leicester. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor the year before, who also lost in the FA Cup final to Arsenal, Tuchel will be hoping that this time his team can go one further and end the barren run of runner-up medals.
Since Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the Blues in 2003, 17 titles have been won in 19 years. The Chelsea owner has invested heavily into the renovation of the club and in the transformation of its playing squad. As a result, the club’s yearly expectations have risen to the point whereby failing to win any given competition can be considered a disaster.
Chelsea’s trophy haul since 2000:
|Competition||Times & Years|
|Premier League||Five Times (2005, 2006, 2010, 2015, 2017)|
|UEFA Champions League||Twice (2012, 2021)|
|UEFA Europa League||Twice (2013, 2019)|
|Emirates FA Cup||Six Times (2000, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2018)|
|Carabao Cup||Three Times (2005, 2007, 2015)|
This season, Chelsea started the campaign in formidable form. A side that looked unstoppable by winning seven of the opening eight fixtures. Even after defeats to Manchester City and Juventus in the Champions League, Tuchel’s men managed to secure 10 wins from the next 12 outings. However, since the 3-2 loss to West Ham United in December, the Blues have hit into a sizeable stumbling block with only three wins being collected during a hectic festive period. Consequently, their inconsistent run of form has allowed Premier League leaders in Manchester City to sail ahead into a ten-point lead at the top of the table.
In addition to the on-field problems, the West London side recently faced an issue when striker Romelu Lukaku publicly aired his disappointment with life at Chelsea since re-joining the club. Whilst declaring his love and admiration for former club Inter Milan, Lukaku was made unavailable for the recent top-flight clash against Liverpool.
Premier League record:
|Club||League Position||Wins||Draws||Losses||Goals For||Goals Against||Points|
In the FA Cup, Chelsea have won the competition on eight separate occasions, with the most recent triumph coming in a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in 2018. Prior to the 21st century, the Blues won the FA Cup in 1970 for the first time. In 1997, Chesterfield reached the FA Cup semi-finals before losing to Middlesbrough in a replay. The 3-3 draw at Old Trafford was one of the most memorable moments in the club’s history. It was Boro who faced Chelsea at Wembley, with the Blues ultimately lifting the trophy for a second time in their history after securing a 2-0 win in what was the 116th edition of the FA Cup.
In the last ten years, Chelsea have won every third round fixture. A run that includes last season’s 4-0 win over Morecambe at Stamford Bridge, to the 5-1 victory at St Mary’s against Southampton in 2012. Despite an immaculate record at this stage of the competition, the Premier League outfit are not immune to shock defeats as Bradford showcased in 2015 with a 4-2 comeback win in West London during the fourth round of the competition.
Who can we expect to play?
The modern-day perception of the FA Cup for many top-flight clubs vastly differs to rhetoric of the past. For many, the tournament, especially in the earlier rounds, create an opportunity to utilise the wider squad, including their youth-team players.
In the case of Chelsea, their starting line-ups for domestic cup competitions have remained strong. In this season’s Carabao Cup, albeit against fellow Premier League opponents, Tuchel has presented a widely experienced side. The £72 million Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga tends to be given the nod over first-choice Edouard Mendy – who has since travelled to represent Senegal in the African Cup of Nations, and in turn, will be unavailable for the non-league visit to Stamford Bridge.
Elsewhere across the pitch and the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech have previously been favoured for the cup competitions. The pair were used in last season’s Third Round victory over Morecambe with Ziyech starting in the midweek Carabao Cup win over local rivals Tottenham.
In the build-up to this fixture, Chelsea may be forced into changes due to a number of injuries throughout the squad. Both wing-back options in Ben Chilwell and Reece James have been recently sidelined as Chilwell is expected to miss the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury. Their absences have invited opportunities for Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso to enter the starting fray.
While a number of first team players may be involved and play a large part for the Chesterfield visit, a few youth team players could be in line for their first starts for the club. These include 17-year-old Lewis Hall and 18-year-old attacker Harvey Vale. Between them, the pair have made a select number of appearances for the first team off of the bench but have yet to start for the Blues.
How to follow the game…
The fixture will be played on Saturday (5.30pm). As the late kick-off this weekend, the game will be covered on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red button and BBC Sport Online.
Phil Tooley will provide reports on our in-house radio station, 1866 Sport. There will also be comprehensive on our social media channels.