If the Premier League returning wasn’t enough, Chelsea is back in the FA Cup against Leicester with a semi-final spot at stake between the UCL contenders.
Chelsea placed the final piece Liverpool’s title winning puzzle on Thursday evening, overcoming Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in a performance that was poignant in more ways than one. It was a danger sign to the rest of the division that Frank Lampard and the Blues mean serious business, and that their quest for European football next year should be taken very seriously.
One of those teams who should take particular interest is the Foxes, who have not had similar fortunes since the restart, drawing both their matches and letting their lead in third place slip to just one point. Whilst focus still remains on the Premier League, attentions can turn to the cup this weekend, as both Lampard and Brendan Rodgers would love their sides to lift silverware in a season dominated by the either the Reds or City. The Blues are likely to rotate their strong squad after a tireless performance against Pep Guardiola’s men, yet those coming in are more than capable of stepping up to the very high bar set mid-week.
Kepa Arizabalaga (No. 1) Goalkeeper, Spain
Infamously, it was against Leicester earlier in the campaign that Lampard dropped Kepa in place for Willy Caballero, after the Spaniards inconsistencies between the sticks. Caballero conceded twice in that match and it wasn’t too long before he was dropped back to the bench.
Kepa has started both of the league wins, letting in a goal in both games and still failing to strike fear into opposing forwards. Nor does he install great confidence in his back four, however he did pull off an impressive one handed save to deny Fernandinho the opener for City, which should have boosted his confidence. It would be unfair to drop him again for a game of this magnitude, so Willy might have to wait a bit longer for another chance in goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta (No. 28) Right back, Spain
Reece James may feel aggrieved if he does not start this game, but the young man would be hard pressed to dislodge the Chelsea captain from his right back post based on current form.
Cesar Azpilicueta was excellent at Villa, especially in an attacking sense, and was pretty solid against City. Leicester love throwing Ben Chilwell forward to aid Harvey Barnes down the left channel, forming a dangerous partnership that will need experience to combat their youthful energy. Azpi has already coped with the combo of Raheem Sterling and Benjamin Mendy, so he will be in good shape to face the English duo.
Antonio Rudiger (No. 2) Centerback, Germany
Antonio Rudiger will be desperate to play again at the King Power, not only because he is finally fully fit, but because he scored twice in the Blues’ previous encounter with Leicester, his only goals to date in 2019/20.
He and Andreas Christensen are beginning to build a relationship at the back, a rapport which will be fully welcomed by the Blues fans. However, despite the Dane playing extremely well in the win over City, he took the full force of a shot on his head which left him a little misty-eyed. Perhaps a few days off to rest his brain could do him good.
Kurt Zouma (No. 15) Centerback, France
This leaves an opportunity for Kurt Zouma to step in at centreback in place of Christensen, who has big boots to fill after watching his team mate mainly quash the threat of Guardiola’s menacing front-line.
They may be few occasions left for the Frenchman to fight for a spot in the starting line-up, as his future at Stamford Bridge remains uncertain. What better audition than to fend off Jamie Vardy and move one step closer to Wembley?
Emerson (No. 33) Left back, Italy
In similar circumstances to Zouma, this could well be last chance saloon for Emerson, who began as Lampard’s first choice left back. However, Marcos Alonso gradually worked his way back into the fold, forcing the Italian back into a supporting role and possibly on the brink of leaving the Blues.
Leicester is without Ricardo Pereira for the remainder of the campaign, therefore pitting Emerson against young full back James Justin, allowing the Chelsea player more freedom to go forward and express himself. His ability cannot be doubted, although the concern lies in his defensive duties, which could come under threat as the game goes on.