The FA Cup 3rd round this weekend sees holders Chelsea begin their defence against Championship side Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge. This match would not normally hold too many fears for the Blues but it comes at a tricky time in their season. They have recently dropped valuable points in the Premiership, suffered several injuries and coach Maurizio Sarri is bemoaning his lack of a striker.
They failed to break down a well organised Southampton side on Wednesday night, failing to score for the second consecutive home game. They had previously lost 1-0 at home to Leicester and have recently suffered defeats at Spurs and Wolves. The normal protocol for the FA Cup these days is to field a weakened team and hoping to coast through to the quarter-finals before taking the competition more seriously. That could be a dangerous approach on Saturday against a Nottingham Forest side who are on the fringes of the play-off places in the Championship.
Many of Chelsea’s regular first-team players are certain to be absent on Saturday. Willian joined Pedro and Giroud on the side-lines when picking up a knock against Southampton. Other attacking options not currently available to Sarri include on loan strikers Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham and the injured Hudson-Odoi.
With the fixtures coming thick and fast in January, Sarri will be reluctant to start Eden Hazard while striker Alvaro Morata continues to prove exasperating. Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on to replace Willian against the Saints but is still struggling with a back problem. That could leave the Blues fielding a very make-shift side against Forest.
It has not been plain sailing for Nottingham Forest boss Altor Karanka this season. He has been under pressure after his side failed to win in five matches, slipping out of the play-off places. That run ended in sensational style with a dramatic 4-2 victory over Championship leaders Leeds United on Wednesday evening.
Leeds went down to ten men when already a goal behind but stunned the home team to move 2-1 ahead. Forest responded with three goals within seven minutes in the second half to seal a highly significant victory. It brings them back into the race for the play-off places, four points adrift of Derby and Middlesbrough.
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest Betting Tips
Chelsea look poor value at long odds-on, given their injury problems and likely team selection. NOTTINGHAM FOREST (12.0) will grow in confidence if they can hold the Blues to half-time (2.73) and a shock result could be on the cards.