Chelsea will hope to book their place in the FA Cup fourth round when they welcome Chesterfield to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Premier League is on a short break, with the FA Cup resuming for the first time in 2022 this weekend. The action kicks off with Manchester City’s visit to Swindon Town on Friday night. On Sunday, Chelsea will play hosts to Chesterfield, with a place in the fourth round on the line.

Chelsea will be making their first foray into the FA Cup this season, with the Blues eager to go one step further after faltering in last season’s final against Leicester City. The west Londoners could not have asked for a better opening game in the 2021/22 campaign, and they will be buoyed after their 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.

On the other hand, Chesterfield began their FA Cup campaign with a fourth qualifying round win over Curzon Ashton before beating Southend United and Salford City in the first two stages. The Spireites’ form has been strong this season, as they have beaten just all term and have not faced a defeat in several weeks.

Chelsea beat Chesterfield 3-0 the last time these teams met, in an FA Cup fifth round replay. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel does not have any new roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Chesterfield. On Saturday, the Chelsea manager will be bereft of the services of seven first-team players, although that will unlikely affect his selection decisions against Chesterfield.

Tuchel is expected to name a youthful side that will also have several fringe players starting. As for those on the sidelines, Andreas Christensen (back), Thiago Silva (COVID-19), Trevoh Chalobah (hamstring), Ben Chilwell (knee), Reece James (hamstring) and N’Golo Kante (COVID-19) are in the treatment room while Edouard Mendy is in Cameroon representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Kai Havertz dislocated a finger during the Carabao Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur this week but is unlikely to be sidelined. However, Havertz will unlikely be picked in the starting eleven, with Ross Barkley, Harvey Vale and Jude Soonsup-Bell forming the attacking trifecta for Chelsea against Chesterfield.

Marcos Alonso is due a rest, and in his absence, Callum Hudson-Odoi could start as the left wing-back. Xavier Simons could play as a makeshift right wing-back on the opposite flank, just as he did against Brentford in the Carabao Cup quarter-final last month.

Lewis Hall and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will likely be the two central midfielders, with Saul Niguez an option on the bench. The defensive unit should have a youthful look about it, too, with Malang Sarr being accompanied by Xavier Mbuyamba and Sam McClelland. Finally, Marcus Bettinelli will make a rare appearance in the Chelsea goal, with Kepa Arrizabalaga getting a breather.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Bettinelli; Mbuyamba, Sarr, McClelland; Simons, Hall, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi; Vale, Barkley; Soonsup-Bell

Chesterfield

Like his counterpart in the Chelsea dugout, James Rowe has plenty of players on the sidelines due to fitness issues. However, unlike Thomas Tuchel, the Chesterfield manager will have major concerns about the near half a dozen players likely to be unavailable.

Rowe is particularly sweating over the fitness of defenders Luke Croll, Laurence Maguire and Gavin Gunning. Jake Clarke is also sidelined due to a long-term hamstring injury, while Jeff King will unlikely be fit enough to start following his return from a knee injury.

Scott Loach will take his place in the Chesterfield goal, with the visitors set to line up in a 3-5-2 formation. Gunning might be fit enough to start, with Tyrone Williams and Alex Whittle set to accompany him at the back.

Up ahead in midfield, Manny Oyeleke, Liam Mandeville and Curtis Weston will have the onus on them to keep things tight and keep a lid on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley’s output. Out wide, Jeff King and Calvin Miller will be the two wing-backs in charge of providing width higher up the pitch.

Finally, Akwasi Asante and Kabongo Tshimanga will likely form the strike partnership, with the latter likely to pose the greatest threat to the Chelsea defence on Saturday.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Loach; Williams, Gunning, Whittle; King, Oyeleke, Mandeville, Weston, Miller; Tshimanga, Asante

Key Stats

  • Chelsea and Chesterfield have not met in the FA Cup since the 1949/50 season, with the Blues winning 3-0 in a fifth round replay after a 1-1 draw.
  • Chesterfield’s sole win over Chelsea came back in October 1905 in a league match, winning 1-0 – it was Chelsea’s first-ever home defeat in the Football League.
  • Chelsea, finalists in the FA Cup in four of the last five seasons, have lost just one of their previous 34 FA Cup matches against teams from outside the Premier League (W28 D5), a 4-2 home defeat to League One side Bradford City in January 2015.
  • Non-league Chesterfield have not faced a Premier League side in the FA Cup since the 1996/97 semi-final against Middlesbrough – after a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford, they lost 3-0 in the replay at Hillsborough. Away from home, the Spireites have never won against a top-flight team in the competition (P13 D3 L10).
  • In the Premier League era, there have been 47 instances of non-league teams facing Premier League opposition in the FA Cup, with two of those winning – Luton Town at Norwich City in January 2013 and Lincoln at Burnley in February 2017. Chelsea have only faced one non-league team in that time, winning 1-0 away at Scarborough in January 2004 under Claudio Ranieri.

Player to Watch

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

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The first half of the season was pleasantly surprising for Ruben Loftus-Cheek as he showed resurgent form after being given several chances by Thomas Tuchel. However, recent reports have claimed that the English international could be deemed surplus to requirements with Chelsea in the market for a central midfielder.

Loftus-Cheek thus needs to prove that he has a lot to offer to Chelsea in the second half of the ongoing campaign. While the game against Chesterfield might not provide many challenges, a solid showing will go a long way in helping Loftus-Cheek attain regular game-time in the coming weeks.

Prediction

Chelsea 4-0 Chesterfield

There is only one way this game will end. Chelsea will be too strong for Chesterfield even though Thomas Tuchel will likely be naming a youthful side. And with players like Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic on the bench, there is more than enough quality to beat Chesterfield handsomely. The Hard Tackle predicts a 4-0 win for Chelsea.

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