Chelsea will kick off the defence of their FA Cup crown when they welcome Nottingham Forest to Stamford Bridge in a third round fixture on Saturday

The FA Cup moves into the third round this weekend, with the bigwigs of English football beginning their respective campaigns in the competition. Defending champions Chelsea will start the defence of their crown on Saturday, when they play hosts to Championship side Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are the current holders of the age old cup competition, having beaten Manchester United in last year’s final to lift the trophy for the eighth time. But, their home form heading into the tie is a tad poor, with the Blues failing to win each of their last two games at Stamford Bridge.

Nottingham Forest, on the other hand, have hardly been on a positive run of form themselves. In fact, their 4-2 win over Leeds United earlier this week was their first in six, providing Aitor Karanka some much needed reprieve. The East Midlands side, meanwhile, play in the FA Cup 3rd round against the defending champions for the second successive season.

The last time these two sides locked horns was in another cup competition, the Carabao Cup last season, with Chelsea coasting to a 5-1 win over Nottingham Forest. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FA Cup encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

A much changed Chelsea side is set to take the field on Saturday. (Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images)

A much changed Chelsea side is set to take the field on Saturday. (Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images)

Maurizio Sarri does not have many pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations for his side’s FA Cup opener, On Saturday, the Chelsea boss will be without just three first-team players, although attack is a major concern, with each of the absentee being a forward.

Willian is the latest player on the treatment table, after sustaining an injury during the goalless draw against Southampton. The Brazilian has joined Olivier Giroud and Pedro on the sidelines, with the trio set to miss out for Chelsea on Saturday.

But, the positive news is that Callum Hudson-Odoi is fit and available. On Saturday, the teenage prodigy is set to make his FA Cup bow, as confirmed by Gianfranco Zola. Hudson-Odoi should start on the left flank, bringing the X-Factor with his pacy outlet and allowing Eden Hazard a rest.

On the right side of the attack, Ruben Loftus-Cheek should assume Willian’s place, while Sarri has very little choice but to name the underperforming Alvaro Morata as his central striker. In midfield, the Chelsea boss is set to make a raft of changes, with Cesc Fabregas and Mateo Kovacic set to replace Jorginho and N’Golo Kante.

Meanwhile, Sarri is expected to name an entirely new back four, featuring Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen, Ethan Ampadu and Emerson Palmieri, with Gary Cahill set to miss out, owing to his impending loan move away from Chelsea.

The final spot in the side should be taken up by Willy Caballero, with Kepa Arrizabalaga being rested, while a number of youngsters are poised to make the matchday squad ahead of a possible debut later on in the game.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Caballero; Zappacosta, Christensen, Ampadu, Emerson; Barkley, Fabregas, Kovacic; Loftus-Cheek, Morata, Hudson-Odoi

Chelsea

Nottingham Forest

Aitor Karanka has a number of injury issues on his hands ahead of the trip to the capital. Against Chelsea on Saturday, the Nottingham Forest could be without as many as six first-team players, with defence, in particular, posing the biggest problems for him.

Michael Dawson is a long-term absentee due to a hamstring injury, while Michael Hefele (Achilles) and Tobias Figueiredo (dead leg) are on the sidelines as well, leaving Karanka without a natural centre-back in his squad. Therefore, against Chelsea, Danny Fox and Claudio Yacob are likely to form a makeshift central defensive partnership for Nottingham.

Meanwhile, with Sam Byram sidelined, Saidy Janko and Tendayi Darikwa are the options at Karanka’s disposal, with the former likely to get the nod on Saturday. On the opposite flank, Jack Robinson is a certain starter.

In midfield, Jack Colback is an automatic selection, with the former Sunderland and Newcastle United man being the Anchor Man in front of the backline. Adlene Guediora should give him company in the double pivot.

Up ahead in attack, Ben Osborn is likely to start, after helping seal the win against Leeds this week. The onus though, will be on Joe Lolley and striker Lewis Grabban to deliver the goods, while Joao Carvalho will likely be the man setting up most of the chances.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon; Janko, Yacob, Fox, Robinson; Guediora, Colback; Lolley, Carvalho, Osborn; Grabban

Nottingham

Key Stats

  • Saturday’s fixture will be the 93rd competitive meeting between the two clubs, with Chelsea winning 38 times in comparison to 26 victories for Nottingham Forest.
  • Nottingham Forest have never beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup, managing just a solitary draw in four meetings in the competition (L3).
  • Nottingham Forest are meeting the FA Cup holders in the third round for the second successive year. They had shocked Arsenal 4-2 at the same stage last season.
  • Nottingham Forest are the 14th team from outside the Premier League to visit Stamdford Bridge in the third round of the FA Cup since January 2004. Chelsea have progressed in each of the previous 13, winning 11, scoring 45 goals and conceding six.
  • In all third round fixtures in the FA Cup, Chelsea have prevailed in each of the last 21 seasons.

Player to Watch

Cesc Fabregas

Time for one final hurrah. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Time for one final hurrah. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Callum Hudson-Odoi was a major option for this segment, but considering this could perhaps be his final game in a Chelsea shirt, Cesc Fabregas deserves more than a mention. The Spaniard has been quite an asset for the Blues over the last four-and-a-half years, playing a major role in their two Premier League triumphs.

But, the signing of Jorginho has been much to his detriment, albeit unfairly so for much of recent weeks. Nevertheless, as his Chelsea stint appears to wind down, Fabregas would hope to bow out on a high, showing Maurizio Sarri that he may have been wrong to overlook him as much as he has done so far.

Prediction

Chelsea 3-1 Nottingham Forest

Chelsea have been far from their best in recent weeks. But, Nottingham Forest are not setting the stage on fire either, with Aitor Karanka fighting for his future at the club. With a number of players getting a chance to prove themselves, Maurizio Sarri could be providing them with the perfect platform to pave the way for a solid result.

Resting a number of key players will only be a byproduct of the same, should these fringe players make a mark on Saturday. As far as Forest are concerned, with a makeshift central defensive partnership set to be named, a long afternoon beckons, especially with the attack not firing on all cylinders either.

The Hard Tackle predicts a largely comfortable outing for Sarri & co. with the visitors threatening in bits and pieces. The Blues ought to win this by a margin of two goals, if not more – we are going for a 3-1 win to begin their defence of the FA Cup crown.