Just five days before Chelsea’s crucial Champions League match against Barcelona, the Blues are in action Friday night against visiting Hull City in the FA Cup.
A win over Hull at Stamford Bridge will take Chelsea into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup and possibly aid in the team’s recovery from their recent poor run of form, a recovery first started on Monday night with a win against West Bromwich Albion.
It’s hard to imagine that Barcelona won’t be on manager Antonio Conte’s mind when he makes his team selection Friday evening, but Chelsea will definitely want a result against Hull at the first time of asking in order to involve the fixture congestion of a potential replay.
Chelsea will be missing the services of Ross Barkley, David Luiz, and Tiemoue Bakayoko against Hull, and Conte has mentioned in his press conference that Ethan Ampadu is likely to start on Friday. Andreas Christensen was subbed in the second half against West Brom as a precaution, so Ampadu could play in the centre of the back three in order to keep Christensen fit for Barcelona.
Hull City have selection problems of their own. Michael Hector and Ola Aina have been key contributors to their campaign this season, but both players are ineligible to face their parent club, as both are on loan at Hull from Chelsea But Hull manager Nigel Adkins may elect to make some changes anyway.
Hull City find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle in the Championship, sitting just one point above the relegation zone. With 15 matches left in the Championship season and a sequence where Hull will play midweek league matches for the next month, Adkins might see a trip to Stamford Bridge as a chance to keep some of his key players fresh, especially with a couple players being ineligible.
If Adkins decides to play him, Hull’s biggest threat is 21-year-old Jarrod Bowen. The winger found himself linked with moves to Premier League clubs like Everton during the January window, and it’s not hard to see why. Bowen has 12 goals to his name this season from the right wing, and stylistically, he’s a lot like Arjen Robben. Bowen’s strong with the ball on his left foot, and he likes to cut inside to shoot and create.
The question will be whether Adkins decides to risk him, much like Conte will have to decide who to risk from his squad because they’ll likely feature Tuesday against Barcelona.
For Chelsea supporters, that might be a good thing, as Callum Hudson-Odoi may be given a chance to make his full Chelsea debut. Hudson-Odoi trained with the first team this week and didn’t feature midweek for the U-17 side, but there is a development squad match on Friday night, as well. With Eden Hazard likely to be rested against Hull and Pedro having taken a few knocks recently, the youngster could easily get a chance to make an impression against Hull, though that won’t be known until sometime on Friday.