Chelsea will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they take on Luton Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
The past four weeks have been quite miserable for Chelsea. The Blues have sparked Arsenal’s recovery with a 3-1 defeat at the Emirates, which was followed by a draw with Aston Villa and a 3-1 loss at the hands of Manchester City. A narrow 1-0 win over Fulham ushered in a ray of hope, but the progress was stifled by a 2-0 defeat to Leicester City in their latest Premier League encounter.
On Sunday, however, the Blues will have an excellent opportunity to gain some confidence and build a winning momentum, as they play hosts to Luton Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The Premier League giants were the cup finalists last season, only to be beaten by Arsenal in the final, so Frank Lampard will be hoping for a similar run this time out, especially considering their struggles in the league.
Chelsea had a field day against Morecambe in the last round, beating the fourth-tier outfit 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. However, things could get much trickier against a Luton Town side that has had a decent campaign in the Championship this term after narrowly escaping relegation last season.
The Hatters had to beat Reading 1-0 in the third round to seal a ticket to Stamford Bridge this weekend. It will be their first competitive meeting with Chelsea since 1994, with manager Nathan Jones hoping to pull off a memorable upset. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this FA Cup match-up in west London on Sunday.
Tactics & Team News
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has confirmed that Olivier Giroud is fit to feature against Luton Town this weekend. However, the Frenchman is unlikely to get the nod ahead of Timo Werner in the number nine slot, especially after the German had to start on the bench in the most recent game against Leicester City.
The former RB Leipzig star has copped a lot of flak for his underwhelming performances in the Premier League this season. So, Sunday’s game against Luton Town should serve as an excellent opportunity for him to get back to scoring form, with additional support from the two Chelsea wide attackers in Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Lampard should keep one eye on the important clash against Wolves on Wednesday, so we expect the likes of Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham to be rested. The same can be said for midfielder N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, though the former is unfit for this fixture – as confirmed by the Chelsea manager.
It means Billy Gilmour should get the nod in the holding midfield role. Gilmour and Jorginho should offer the composure and balance in the midfield unit with their passing. As for Kai Havertz, he will be tasked with the responsibility of providing the much-needed creativity going forward. The German could act as an out and out no. 10 in the absence of Mount.
In the defensive department, Chelsea have recently sanctioned the loan departure of Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan. He is, therefore, not an option, with Lampard largely expected to make wholesale changes to the backline that started against Leicester City. As such, we are likely to see Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen replace Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the defence.
Other changes should see Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson replacing the two full-backs against Leicester – Reece James and Ben Chilwell – while Kepa Arrizabalaga is likely to return in between the sticks, at the expense of Edouardo Mendy.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Zouma, Emerson; Gilmour, Jorginho, Havertz; Ziyech, Werner, Hudson-Odoi
Luton are a side who like to defend deep, especially against top-class opposition like Chelsea. And with Nathan Jones not missing too many star players aside from Tom Lockyer, heading into this game, he will look to adopt a deep defensive line in an attempt to frustrate the opposing attackers.
Things could get a bit more challenging without key defender Lockyer, who is suspended after picking up a red card for violent conduct against Brentford. His absence should pave Glen Rea’s way to slot into the heart of the Luton defence alongside club captain Sonny Bradley.
🎥 𝙃𝘼𝙍𝙍𝙔'𝙎 𝙈𝘼𝘿…
"It's one of those games you dream of as a kid. You're playing against the team you support, against the best players in the world."
— @LutonTown (@LutonTown) January 22, 2021
The two centre-backs should be aided by the two full-backs in James Bree and Brendan Galloway, with Jones likely to provide a breather for first-choice left-back Dan Potts. It will be interesting to see whether any of these two full-backs dare to march forward in search of a potential breakthrough on the counter, rather than staying narrow and helping out the two centre-backs.
In midfield, Jones had started with three of his fringe players in the last FA Cup tie against Reading. But, given the quality of the opposition this weekend, it won’t be surprising to see the 47-year-old recalling some of his key players, including Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, though Welshman Joe Morrell may retain his place in the side.
Elsewhere, Harry Cornick and Kazenga LuaLua might feature as the wide attackers as they look to provide the supply for James Collins upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Sluga; Bree, Rea, Bradley, Galloway; Mpanzu; Cornick, Morrell, Dewsbury-Hall, LuaLua; Collins
- This is the first meeting between Chelsea and Luton Town since April 1994, when the Blues beat the Hatters 2-0 in the FA Cup semi-finals to reach their first final since 1970.
- Luton have been eliminated from seven of their last eight FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents, beating Norwich as a non-league side in January 2013.
- Chelsea have progressed from 51 of their last 53 FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division, losing against Barnsley in March 2008 and Bradford in January 2015.
- Since losing to Chelsea in the 1993-94 semi-finals, Luton have reached the FA Cup fifth round in just one of the subsequent 26 campaigns, doing so as a non-league side in 2012/13.
- Luton Town assistant manager and chief recruitment officer Mick Harford scored Chelsea’s first-ever Premier League goal, against Oldham in his one season with the club in 1992/93.
Player to Watch
Although Giroud is not a guaranteed starter for Chelsea heading into this game, the fit-again striker is certain to feature as a substitute against Luton Town this weekend. He has a tremendous record in the FA Cup, having been involved in 25 goals in 32 appearances in his career.
With star striker Timo Werner struggling with a lack of form, it won’t even be surprising to see Lampard calling on Giroud in the second half, in case Chelsea do fail to break down the lines of the Luton defence. The Frenchman can provide the aerial prowess, combined with his lethal finishing, making him one of the players worth keeping an eye on this weekend.
Chelsea 2-0 Luton Town
Chelsea have won only three of their last ten matches in all competitions; so Frank Lampard’s men will be under pressure to perform at Stamford Bridge this weekend. And it won’t be surprising to see them struggle to get the better of a Luton backline that will defend deep and frustrate the opposition.
We are expecting the Blues to dominate the possession as usual. However, they may require late goals to sneak a victory rather than complete domination of their opponents. The Hard Tackle, to that end, predicts a 2-0 win for the west Londoenrs.