Chelsea will hope to bounce back from their UEFA Champions League elimination at the hands of Barcelona when they take on Leicester City in the FA Cup on Sunday.The Blues put up a valiant effort but were no match for the La Liga leaders, losing 3-0 at the Camp Nou. They’ll have just a few days to recover from that setback before going up against a Foxes team that is rested and out of contention in the Premier League―they should have their entire focus on this quarter-final.
The final scoreline of Chelsea’s defeat in Barcelona may have looked one-sided, as the Catalans ran out to a 3-0 win, but there was an air of positivity surrounding the Blues after the loss.Sportswriter Kelvin Barker summed up how most fans appeared to feel after their European exit:The Blaugrana were simply too good, powered by an unleashed Lionel Messi, who served up another vintage performance.
He drew plenty of praise from pundits and fans alike after the match, and Blues manager Antonio Conte also didn’t hide his admiration.
He had some kind words for his own players as well, urging them to keep up the good work:
But the Blues now face two crucial matches in a row, starting with an FA Cup meeting with Leicester. After the international break, they’ll play host to Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League in another pivotal match.
The FA Cup presents Conte and his troops with their best chance for silverware, while in the Premier League, the race for a top-four finish and Champions League football for next season is heating up.
The latter is arguably more important to attract players in the summer, but with a lengthy break on the horizon, Conte should not rest his stars on Sunday.
Leicester sit in eighth place in the standings, well outside of the race for the European spots but also miles ahead of the teams in the relegation battle. At this point, the Foxes have little left to play for in the league, and they’re likely to prioritise the FA Cup.
They cruised to a 4-1 win over West Bromwich Albion in their last outing, with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kelechi Iheanacho all getting on the scoresheet. Their form in front of goal is a good sign for the hosts and a bad one for the Blues.
Chelsea will need a far better performance from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois than they got at the Camp Nou. The Belgian has not been in great form of late, letting in far too many shots a player of his calibre should save.
Up front, it’s crucial the strikers start to play up to their potential. Both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata have not found the net with consistency, and that will need to change if the Blues want to achieve their goals moving forward.