Chelsea are set to contest the quarterfinal of England’s secondary cup competition for the 15th time in the last 22 years, and looking to get one one step closer to winning it for the fifth time in that span (sixth overall), after the triumphs in 1997-98, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2014-15 (and 1964-65).
In our way stand AFC Bournemouth, who’ve never made it past this stage in their 119-year history, including last season, when they suffered defeat at this exact same stage, in this exact same place, to the exact same opposition.
Rematch it is!
Date / Time: Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 19:45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Anthony Taylor — Taylor has refereed Chelsea in a couple cup finals (2017 FA Cup, 2015 League Cup), and has taken charge of 26 matches overall. But this will be his first Chelsea match of the season (after 6 last season). We last saw him in the 1-0 win over Liverpool on the penultimate matchday of last season.
Forecast: Light rain, a gentle breeze, fairly mild ... no, you’re still in Londinium in mid-December.
On TV: none (UK); none (USA); none (India); elsewhere — having to compete against a North London Derby for broadcast is tough in this case.
Streaming online: ESPN+ (USA); ChelseaTV (audio commentary only; int’l)
Chelsea team news: Slightly limited options up front for Chelsea as Álvaro Morata is out indefinitely (but hopefully not too long) with a twisted knee and Eden Hazard nurses an ankle knock from the weekend. That leaves Olivier Giroud as the one healthy center forward option, unless Sarri pulls a big surprise out of the bag.
Sarri has rotated at least half his squad for most midweek matches regardless of competition, and with the team fresh off a game on Sunday and another league game coming up Saturday, that’s expected to be the case once again.
AFC Bournemouth team news: The Cherries’ 2-0 loss to Chelsea in September was their first loss of the season and just one of two overall through the end of October. Since then however, there’s been a drastic turnaround in fortunes, with just 1 win from 7 games (6 losses), which has seen the team drop from potentially challenging for Europe to sitting firmly in mid-table. Granted this 7-match run had seen them face all but two of the top-six (and Spurs are coming up on Boxing Day).
Eddie Howe has seen his team go through a few such big slides and there’s little reason to think he won’t engineer another turnaround this time as well. But hopefully not quite yet today, when he’ll probably have to make do without his captain, Simon Francis, and his leading goalscorer (and confirmed Chelsea transfer target!) Callum Wilson. Lewis Cook, Adam Smith, and Dan Gosling, who scored the equalizer in last year’s quarterfinal, have been ruled out as well.
Previously: This was a strange game that turned super-dramatic in the end, but was also the start of Morata’s slow and steady downfall (thanks to the silly yellow for celebration that ruled him out for the following league game).