Chelsea is now in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League and everyone at the club is beaming with excitement. The Blues must now turn their attention to Sheffield United in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, who they’ve already beaten twice this season. Thomas Tuchel seems to have settled on his preferred eleven and of course there are players who haven’t featured half as much as they or the fans would have liked. The FA Cup is still one of the more realistic trophies Chelsea can win this season, so here’s who we think Tuchel picks to get Chelsea into the FA Cup semifinals:
Arrizabalaga has made two appearances under Tuchel and has played excellently in those games, keeping two clean sheets. He was particularly impressive in the last FA Cup match where he made two stand out saves to ensure Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Barnsley. Tammy Abraham did make a clearance off the line in that game that also played a big part in securing the clean sheet and victory. Notwithstanding Arrizabalaga was on top of his game, as Barnsley proved much more difficult to handle than the Blues had anticipated.
Reece James (No. 24) Right back, England
James has featured a lot less than his right back colleague, Cesar Azpilicueta since Tuchel arrived. Tuchel will want to give Azpilicueta a rest in this game as it is clear that he sees the skipper as an essential part of this team. James is better in a back four anyway, so this fixture offers an opportunity for the Englishman to express himself. In Tuchel’s 3-4-3, James is very much fighting Callum Hudson-Odoi for the right wing back spot. He would do well to use this game to give Tuchel is selection headache.
Kurt Zouma (No. 15) Centerback, France
Zouma has played well in all his games under Tuchel so far. The only match many might argue this point is the Southampton game away from home and many will point to the goal that was conceded. He featured in Chelsea’s last FA Cup match and was arguably the best player on the day. His matches against Everton and Atletico Madrid were superb as well. He has been one of the main losers in the change of manager situation, but he has been a consummate professional and has kept his head down and worked hard.
Antonio Rudiger (No. 2) Centerback, Germany
With Thiago Silva being saved until the break ends and Andreas Christensen having been sick midweek, only Rudiger remains if the plan is a 4-2-3-1. Rudiger has been one of Tuchel’s most trusted on field lieutenants and that is likely to continue with him taking a larger leadership role in Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho’s absence.
Ben Chilwell (No. 21) Left back, England
Chilwell is another one who has suffered simply because of the change in formation and manager. Chilwell too seems to be better in a back four playing as a fullback. Alonso has been better in every department as a wing back than the Englishman. Chilwell put in some notable performances against Manchester United and Liverpool, and it’s understandable. He’d be at Chelsea for a long time and his brilliant start to the season will not be forgotten. This is a rare opportunity for him to make a good case to start over Marcos Alonso in the left wing back role, though he has to do that from the position of a left back.
Billy Gilmour (No. 23) Central midfielder, Scotland
Gilmour’s only other match for Tuchel was another FA Cup match against Barnsley. Chelsea came up against a high press and many of the Chelsea players could not handle it. Gilmour was one of those players. He gave the ball away way too much and was almost made a non-factor by Barnsley in midfield. Chelsea’s midfield got dominated that day that most of the game was played in Chelsea’s own defensive third which was quite shameful. Gilmour is presented a chance to put up a much better showing than that of Barnsley, this kind of opportunity will not present itself often.
Mateo Kovacic (No. 17) Central midfielder, Croatia
Kovacic has been superb since the new manager arrived. He has been plunged into a system that was almost tailor made to maximize his talents. He was superb against Atletico Madrid and he helped Chelsea to control the midfield and the game as a whole. He’d be essential if Chelsea is to control this midfield too. Sheffield United prefer to play with a lot of bodies in midfield in an attempt to get an advantage in the middle third, making it easier for them to transition to the attack if they play their cards right.
Kai Havertz (No. 29) Attacking midfielder, Germany
Havertz waited patiently for his chance and he has taken it with both hands. Though he has been deployed mainly as a center forward under Tuchel, his general transitional play, link up, distribution and movement has been very good. He is still yet to score under Tuchel and the new manager will want to give him this game as an opportunity to get into some kind of goal-scoring form. A team as vulnerable as Sheffield United may not present itself again. He’d help in retaining the ball in the final third, which Chelsea has missed since Willian and Eden Hazard left.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (No. 20) Right winger, England
Tuchel may have a different role for Hudson-Odoi on Sunday, but he has shown that he is perhaps the most effective when hugging the touchline and is in a position to isolate the opponent’s wide players one-on-one. He was impressive in the match against Everton as the left sided attacking midfielder, and though this formation is far from that 3-4-3, with the right communication with his same side fullback he could have just as good an impact. He does well against considerably weaker opponents and especially in cup games, so this one is right up his alley.
Christian Pulisic (No. 10) Left winger, United States
Pulisic needs this game almost as much as a thirsty deer needs water. Pulisic is yet to find any form under any of the managers Chelsea has had this season. The American has been in and out of injuries frequently and he has had to wait a long time to get very few minutes. He needs a game like this against an opponent like this where the pressure is a lot less, and he can just express himself and deliver football art like he has been known to do. Pulisic has rarely gotten minutes under Tuchel, and this is an opportunity to play his way into some kind of form and maybe even into Tuchel’s starting eleven plans.
Tammy Abraham (No. 9) Center forward, England
Abraham has had a rough ride under Tuchel so far. He went from being top of the striker pecking order, to being bottom. After having never been subbed off at half time under Lampard he has been subbed off at half time twice under the German. Yes it is harsh, but football at the top level is even harsher than this and the Englishman has to buckle up and raise his game. His exclusion from the matchday squad several times has raised a lot of eyebrows and there are even reports that he may be refusing a new contract. Chelsea may well need to sell Abraham this summer, but they shouldn’t have to. Many players have shown that with Tuchel, you always get a chance to prove your worth, and this is one such chance should Abraham be fit for the match in time. Others will certainly come as well. Tammy played very well in the FA Cup tie against Barnsley, scoring a well taken goal and making a goal-line clearance to make sure his goal wasn’t cancelled out. What he needs to do is make the most of these opportunities.