Chelsea Travel to Norwich City in the FA Cup

This weekend sees one of the most anticipated set of fixtures in the English football calendar - the 3rd round of The FA Cup. The opportunity of the biggest clubs in the country pitting their wits against non league and lower division clubs sees the thrill of the underdog overcoming nearly impossible odds. Who could not get excited about this weekend?

From Chelsea’s point of view, they head up the A11 into Norfolk to play against Championship side Norwich City. It is an FA Cup fixture that has seen The Blues eliminate The Canaries in all 4 previous meetings between the 2 clubs.

After a very busy fixture schedule since the end of November, we can expect Antonio Conte to make fairly wholesale changes to his starting line up. The likes of Willy Caballero, Ethan Ampadu, Kenedy, Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater and Michy Batshuayi will be hoping to get the nod. Add to them David Luiz and Charly Musonda who are both in contention after injuries and you have the makings of a side full of players who should be desperate to make the most of the opportunity.

Caballero and the youngsters Ampadu, Kenedy and Musonda have impressed in the league cup so far this season. Zappacosta played well as a substitute at Arsenal including nearly scoring a last minute winner, while Drinkwater was outstanding at home to Stoke City in the previous match. Although Conte rarely puts his faith in Batshauyi in Premier League matches, the striker has impressive statistics against non PL sides in domestic cup competitions - 7 goals and 2 assists in just 4 matches.

Eden Hazard sustained an ankle injury late on against Arsenal and new signing Ross Barkley is not yet match fit so both are unlikely to be involved at all.

Norwich lie mid table in 13th position in the Championship and are unbeaten in their last 3 matches after an indifferent period earlier in December. German Daniel Farke was appointed their manager in May in an effort to rebuild the former Premier League club back into promotion contention on a very small budget thanks to the Premier League parachute payments ending. The former Borussia Dortmund reserve team manager is part of an influx of knowledgeable, tactically minded Germans to enter into the English game recently and, along with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and David Wagner at Huddersfield Town, have shown some great promise.

Norwich include a recent nemesis to The Blues in their playing ranks in the form of Steven Naismith. He has scored 6 goals in his last 6 matches against the Londoners including a hat trick last time out for Everton in September 2015.

However, all the signs point towards last season’s Cup Finalists keeping up their record of progressing in 20 of their last 21 FA Cup ties against non-Premier League sides. Their only loss in that run was the 4-2 defeat to Bradford City at home in 2015.

Provided the youngsters and fringe players apply themselves and show the level of commitment that could see them challenging for more inclusion in future Premier League squads, it is a potentially tricky banana skin that Chelsea should not fall foul of.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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