Chelsea take on Liverpool tomorrow in the Last 16 of a competition that the Reds literally wanted nothing to do with, but seeing as how they’re still in it despite their best efforts not to be, they probably wouldn’t mind advancing anyway — especially as they’ve surprisingly lost twice in their last three matches in all competitions, including a most shocking 3-0 loss to Watford over the weekend.
It remains to be seen if Reds boss Jürgen Klopp sticks to his hardline policy of full rotation — or even sending the U23s (as he’s done twice, once by force when the first-team were away at the FIFA Club World Cup, and once by choice when the first-team were on winter break) — but Blues boss Frank Lampard certainly will not be engaging in any such shenanigans.
Lampard has of course rotated for most Cup games as well, with the amount largely dependent on strength of opposition, but for tomorrow, he will be looking to play as strong a lineup as possible.
“We’ll be going all out for the victory. It’s Liverpool, our fans are coming to see us in the FA Cup trying to overturn the best team in the land.
“It doesn’t mean I might not change a couple of people, I think there might be something for freshness of legs or a couple of little different options, but I won’t pick a team casually where I’m giving minutes. I’m treating it with the care I would any Premier League game.”
With the FA Cup Chelsea’s best opportunity for a trophy this season, Lampard’s intentions are not at all surprising. Then again, with the number of injuries we do have, he might not have too much choice anyway. We could dip into the Academy even further, but that’s not on the cards at this point (in fact, if some rumors are to be believed, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be playing for the U23 Development Squad on Monday instead).
Regardless of the lineup picked, Lampard will be hoping for a good response after back-to-back disappointing results.
“It’s mindset. Every game’s different, but you have to have a mindset within the group [...] it’s always collective. As a group we can’t be happy with it.”
“I don’t think it matters how young you are, it isn’t naivete, I think there is a concentration issue. We have to concentrate even more [...] you need to dig in and concentrate that little bit more as a group. We’ve been tested with that a lot and we talk about it a lot, but the players have to find a solution on the pitch.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
If Lampard could, he’d probably pick himself. But he can’t. So all he can do is talk, train, and pick the right players. Those are the things he can control. The rest is up to the players.
This is familiar territory, and not just this season.
Let’s hope everyone does their job well tomorrow then.