The FA Cup loves to talk about The Magic of the Cup™ but just like in the previous round, we can only hope that there is no magic whatsoever at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
Thomas Tuchel, Marina Granovskaia, and the rest of the Chelsea backroom staff were all treated to a magic show yesterday — by our “resident magician” not named Eden Hazard or Gianfranco Zola — so hopefully that will have satisfied this week’s magic requirement indeed.
After dispatching non-league opposition in the third round, we take on third division Plymouth Argyle in the fourth round. It’s an FA Cup matchup 86 years in the making, since our 4-1 win in the 1935-36 edition. We had met a few times since, mostly in the confines of the old Second Division, the last of which came back in 1989: the Blues winning 1-0 at the excellently named “Home Park” thanks to a Kerry Dixon goal.
Plymouth have won once and only once at Stamford Bridge, 2-1 in the 1979 League Cup. Let’s keep it that way.
Date / Time: Saturday, February 5, 2022, 12:30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Simon Hooper (on pitch); Mike Dean (VAR) — hats off to Mike Dean for being an excellent VAR last time out, against Spurs; he’s often much maligned and criticized, so credit where credit’s due!
Forecast: cool; chance of rain
On TV: BBC Red Button (UK); none (USA); Sony Six (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BBC iPlayer (UK); ESPN+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: We remain without Ben Chilwell and Reece James, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek has managed to pick up a knock on his day(s) off, which is sad. Meanwhile, Christian Pulisic and Thiago Silva have just returned from overseas trips, so they will get some time to themselves before the team depart for Abu Dhabi and the Club World Cup after this game.
Four youngsters have been training with the first team this week, and could thus see action if circumstances are right: Lewis Hall, Harvey Vale, Xavier Simons, and Charlie Webster. And we do have Trevoh Chalobah and Andreas Christensen available again as well.
We don’t have another actual Premier League game until later this month, so the focus is fully on the FA Cup and the Club World Cup for the next two weeks.
Plymouth Argyle team news: Chelsea have played 37 games this season; Plymouth have played 35, which is something that doesn’t often get a lot of attention — the amount of games at lower levels — and they have not had the luxury of any sort of winter break, pseudo or actual.
Despite that, they are currently on track for their best finish for a dozen years, sitting 7th in League One and pushing for promotion back to the Championship for the first time since 2009-10. Manager Steven Schumacher took over from Ryan Lowe a couple months ago, and has led the team to four wins, three defeats, and two draws, including a 1-0 extra-time win over Birmingham City in the previous round of this competition.
Beyond all that, perhaps the biggest news is the return of former Chelsea youth captain Jordan Houghton, for the first time since leaving for good in 2018. The 26-year-old midfielder signed with Plymouth in the summer after three years at MK Dons.
Previously: Chelsea made quick and easy work of non-league Chesterfield in the previous round, scoring five times.