Chelsea will be looking to make it back-to-back victories as they welcome Hull City to Stamford Bridge on Friday night. Their season has taken a turn for the worse since the turn of the year, but their performance against West Brom was encouraging, and they will be hopeful of building on that in the FA Cup. It would be disastrous for them to lose ahead of the first leg of their Champions League tie against Barcelona. Their opponents are currently fighting at the bottom of the Championship as they try to avoid suffering their second relegation in two seasons. They have nothing to lose in this match, and that makes them a dangerous proposition.
Given they have been drawn to face Barcelona in the Champions League, this competition offers the best chance of success for Chelsea. It would be seen as a failure if they were to win no trophies this season after being so dominant during the last campaign. There have been questionable recruitment decisions made during the last two windows, but they still have a lot of quality at their disposal. Eden Hazard is having a fantastic season, and his form has been a rare bright spot for supporters to cling on to. They should be looking to dispatch Hull comfortably.
Hull have struggled in the Championship this season, and that isn’t surprising considering they sold some first-team players last summer. The fans continue to protest against the ownership, and it looks like it will be a long time before the club returns to the Premier League. They will view this weekend as a free hit as they get to once again go up against Premier League opposition. Nigel Adkins has struggled since taking over, winning on only four occasions. Two of these victories came in the FA Cup.
Eden Hazard has scored six goals and contributed one assist in his last six matches.
Hull City have only scored five goals in their last six matches across all competitions, four of which came against Nottingham Forest.
The Brazilian international has been in and out of the team this season, but he is likely to come into the starting eleven for the visit of Hull City on Friday. The match against Barcelona will be on the mind of Antonio Conte, and he will have to rotate his squad for this one, which means Willian is a good option to have. For the 29-year-old, there will be an incentive to perform, as a good performance could see him be given further game-time in the Champions League. Despite his relatively small amount of action, he has offered a threat this season as displayed by his contribution of four goals and six assists in the Premier League. His goal involvement stands at an impressive one every 123.9 minutes. Eden Hazard has been the star in recent weeks, but his attacking team-mate can be a good foil for him when given an opportunity. Willian is currently averaging three chances created, 2.36 shots and 1.43 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. He can cause problems in the final third and is willing to work hard defensively to help the team. Hull are a team battling relegation, and the home side should have more than enough to win the match, even if they rest key players. If the Brazilian is on form, it will take the pressure of Hazard, and there will be an option to rest the Belgian.
The Hull City midfielder has been one of the breakout stars of the Championship this season, as he has taken his opportunity after being promoted to a first-team regular. It has been a tough season for the Tigers and it looks like their stay in the Football League could be a longer one than they would like, but the chance to blood young players has been one of the benefits of the team’s current position. The 21-year-old has scored 12 times in the Championship, which makes him the team’s top scorer by some distance. The next best is Kamil Grosicki with six. There will be a lot of clubs monitoring the development of Bowen, as he is English and already performing to a high level in the Championship. His performances are made even more impressive by the struggles that his team are going through. Considering the attacking woes of Hull, the youngster’s average of 2.1 shots and 1.07 chances created per ninety minutes show his quality. Meanwhile, he is a hard-working player who relishes doing defensive work for the team, as shown by his average of 2.32 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. It has been a name-making season for the player and a strong showing at Stamford Bridge will attract even more interest from Premier League clubs.
Olivier Giroud may not be risked after suffering a head injury on Monday night against West Brom. He delivered a good performance leading the line, but it looked like he had suffered from the collision. There is also a slight calf problem that he is managing. Marcos Alonso is closing in on a return, but it is more likely that he is missing as a precautionary measure ahead of the Champions League. Ross Barkley remains on the sidelines.
Greg Luer and Abel Hernandez are the only two Hull City players missing through injury. The latter has played only three times this season, and he has been a huge loss to the team, as they have struggled to replace his goal threat. Sebastian Larsson will also miss the trip due to suspension.
It will be interesting to see what team Chelsea put out, as you would expect Antonio Conte to have one eye on the Champions League. Even if they make wholesale changes, they should have enough to beat a struggling Hull team. For the visitors, it would be better to drop out of the competition to focus on avoiding another relegation. It would be a huge blow to drop to League One, and the FA Cup is an unwanted distraction from the main aim. It should be a comfortable home win as the Blues attempt to build momentum ahead of the run-in.