This isn’t a match that Chelsea would have wanted in mid-January, but Wednesday night, the Blues will welcome Norwich to Stamford Bridge for an FA Cup third round replay.
Chelsea have themselves to blame for having to play this match. At Carrow Road a week and a half ago, Antonio Conte made nine changes to his starting 11 after playing Arsenal in midweek, and his choices backfired.
The Blues produced one of the more listless performances of the season in their last meeting, and fringe players such as Michy Batshuayi and Kenedy failed to make any real impact on the match. The question remains, will Conte pick a similar side to the one that faced Norwich last time, or does he sprinkle in a few more of his preferred 11?
The answer will be revealed when the Chelsea team sheet is released, but Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will definitely not be a part of the squad, as both suffered hamstring injuries in Saturday’s porous performance against Leicester.
Conte was hoping that Ross Barkley would have a chance to make his Chelsea debut from the substitutes bench but was informed that Barkley’s transfer wasn’t completed in time for him to be eligible for the first third-round match, so he’s unavailable for the replay.
As for Norwich, they should be feeling pretty confident right now. Including the 0-0 draw with Chelsea, the Canaries are unbeaten in their last five matches and recorded an away victory over Bristol City in their most recent match.
The only thing that might dampen the optimism of the Norwich support is their goal record. Norwich are averaging just a goal a game in the Championship this season, netting 27 times in 27 matches.
Against Chelsea in their last meeting, they created a couple decent opportunities, but failed to hit the target. Had they taken even one of those chances, they might have had a chance to claim a major scalp in the FA Cup.
Norwich manager Daniel Farke also has a major decision to make. His Norwich team in the Championship typically plays a back four, but against Chelsea, he decided to match shape, employing a back three. The Canaries seemed rather comfortable in that shape, but to be fair, they weren’t really tested, so will Farke decide to adopt that shape away at Stamford Bridge?
Regardless of shape, Chelsea better expect a Norwich side that will dig their heels in and try and keep the match tight. The Blues will need to show a bit more sharpness to their play than they have in recent weeks. Otherwise, home fixture or not, things could get rather nervy on the pitch during the course of the match.