With the Premier League title out of reach and the Blues facing Barcelona in the Champions League, the FA Cup looks like the most realistic chance of the club winning silverware this season. However, while the trophy remains important for Antonio Conte, he is expected to field a weakened team in Friday’s Fifth Round tie at home to Hull City with Barcelona to come on Tuesday. Hull defeated Nottingham Forest in the last round but sit near the foot of the Championship table after an underwhelming season so far.
Antonio Conte is expected to rotate his side ahead of the Champions League tie with Barcelona on Tuesday and could give a debut to Emerson Palmieri at left wing-back.
The likes of Danny Drinkwater, Ethan Ampadu, Willy Caballero and Gary Cahill are expected to come back into the side while Tiemoue Bakayoko, David Luiz and Ross Barkley are out injured.
It’s likely that Eden Hazard will be rested for this one but expect to see Alvaro Morata involved after recovering from his back injury.
Hull will be without Ola Aina, Michael Hector and Fikayo Tomori who are all on loan from Chelsea and are ineligible to play against their parent club.
Defenders Ondrej Mazuch and Moses Odubajo are also out through injury, leaving Hull very threadbare in that department. Abel Hernandez also misses out but Michael Dawson could feature.
Probable Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Caballero; Azpilicueta, Ampadu, Cahill; Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Emerson; Willian, Morata, Pedro.
Probable Hull XI (4-2-3-1): McGregor; Stewart, Dawson, MacDonald, Clark; Larsson, Irvine; Bowen, Toral, Wilson; Dicko.
Given Hull’s defensive shortages, Emerson Palmieri may find himself up against a young, inexperienced right back and the new signing may get some joy on his debut. He may, however, have plenty of defensive duties as well with Jarrod Bowen, Hull’s exciting, young winger expected to play on the right.
Ethan Ampadu will need to be strong up against the likes of Will Keane, who likes to hold the ball up with his back to goal. If either Adame Diomade or Nouha Dicko start up front, they’ll prefer to get in behind Ampadu and the Chelsea defence.
Alvaro Morata’s clever movement may well be too much for the Hull defence to handle if he can get the right service. Expect goals from the Spaniard, who will be pushing for a starting place against Barcelona next week.
Chelsea’s record vs Hull
The Blues have never lost to Friday’s visitors and have won their last six games against the Tigers. In the last 13 meetings between the two, Chelsea have failed to keep a clean sheet just once – during a 3-2 away win on their way to the Premier League title in 2015.
Last season’s Stamford Bridge meeting came in the Premier League and goals from Diego Costa and Gary Cahill saw the Blues run out 2-0 winners. However, the game was marred by a horrific head injury to Hull’s Ryan Mason, who has had to retire with the injury just this week.
The last time these two met in a cup game was 11 years ago in the Carling Cup when goals from Scott Sinclair, Salomon Kalou (2) and Steve Sidwell helped the away side through to the next round in a 4-0 victory.
Antonio Conte will be expecting to be in the hat for the quarter-final draw come Monday and will see the game as a perfect opportunity to give a rest to those who need it and to give game time to those who need it. VAR will also be in action once more at Stamford Bridge so let’s hope it’s less controversial than last time.