Chelsea assistant manager Gianfranco Zola has taken a significant role in the public eye not just on the sidelines listening and giving suggestions to Maurizio Sarri, but also filling in the shoes of the manager whenever we have press conferences for League Cup and Europa League games. If today is any indication, the same will the case for FA Cup matches as Zola took the podium for the pre-match press conference ahead of our Saturday encounter with Nottingham Forest for the competition’s third round.
With Chelsea ravaged with injuries, especially in the attacking front with Pedro, Olivier Giroud and now Willian out of contention, the rotation that is to be expected whenever we face a Championship is set to be heavier than usual. The silver lining is that this should probably open opportunities for youngsters such as Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has just returned to full training, to shine on the pitch and make their case for more playing time.
“We have some players who cannot play, like Pedro, Willian and Giroud. It will leave space for others. We will rotate a little.”
“Callum is back in full training, he is certainly available and I would very much like it if he is going to play.”
Defender/midfielder Ethan Ampadu is another youth player who has been part of the first-team this season, but has not seen the pitch as often as most fans would like him to. It is quite possible that the Welsh international will be given a chance this weekend as well.
“Ampadu everyone shares the opinion he will be an important member of his squad. We value him a lot and when there is an opportunity he will get the chance.”
The latest entry to the medical department was Willian. The Brazilian attacker left the pitch early while feeling his left calf muscle, and there immediate worries that the injury could take him out for a long while. Thankfully, it is might not as grave.
“The doctor hasn’t told us, but I don’t think it is as bad. When it is a muscle problem you get scared, but I don’t think it is too big.”
As for our other still injured attackers, Pedro and Giroud, Zola expects them to return to the fray next week. Just in time to face Tottenham in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal.
“I think we might get Pedro and Giroud back for Tottenham.”
Fortunately, our main star, Eden Hazard, has not fallen with injury last month despite our opponent’s best attempts to do so by beating his ankles whenever possible. To avoid the worst, the Belgian attacker should get some well deserved rest this weekend.
“Of course, Eden has been fantastic and influential, but I believe tomorrow he might get a little rest.”
In times like these when a big team faces a minnow, the “magic of the cup” is always brought up. Zola particularly loves the FA Cup, and so does the fans. Although he probably does not expect any kind of “magic” taking place to upset the large Chelsea fanbase tomorrow.
“For me I always rated it as one of the best. It is open to everyone like football should be. It is an open competition and it feeds the dream of many people.”
“The crowd loves it, everybody does.”
And so, we still expect Chelsea to go out and smash a Championship side, as they are ought to do. Even though they will have to lineup a weaker team than we are used to, for the sake of resting our first-choice players.
“We are trying to establish ourselves in [the Premier League] and we want to do well in the FA Cup. It is a pity the game comes where we have played so many games.”
“You have to try to save some players.”
-Gianfranco Zola; Source: football.london