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Preview: Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Saturday's FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Nottingham Forest.

Chelsea begin their FA Cup campaign against Nottingham Forest looking to move a step closer to retaining the trophy that they lifted with victory over Manchester United in May.

Nottingham Forest make the trip to Stamford Bridge having returned to winning ways with a 4-2 triumph over Leeds United on New Year's Day.


Maurizio Sarri on the touchline during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on November 4, 2018© Reuters

Seven points from four games over the Christmas period with an injury list which got longer by the match was not the worst return for Chelsea, but it has left Maurizio Sarri with problems heading into the rest of January.

The Blues must find a way to cope with a fixture schedule which brings a double-header with Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup semi-finals at the same time that they also have to contend with three important games in the Premier League.

Sarri's side now only sit three points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal after Wednesday's goalless draw with Southampton, and more of his players are beginning to pick up minor muscle injuries after a busy schedule on both the domestic and European scene.

Chelsea have already played 31 competitive matches since Sarri's arrival in July, but even though the Italian has a large squad at his disposal, he has not taken the chance to rotate his players over Christmas.

There were signs against the Saints that some of the members of his squad are ready for a weekend off, but whether that materialises against a strong Forest side remains to be seen.

Alvaro Morata made his first start since December 13 in midweek, but the Spaniard continues to look short of confidence in the final third and Chelsea have a decision to make regarding his long-term future.

Cesc Fabregas has barely been used by Sarri all season, and an appearance against Forest on Saturday could mark the playmaker's final appearance at Stamford Bridge ahead of a transfer away from the club.

Whoever is selected by Sarri will be given the responsibility of trying to end a run of 10 matches where Chelsea have failed to score more than two goals in a game in any competition.

Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWD

Nottingham Forest

Aitor Karanka in charge of Nottingham Forest on November 28, 2018© Reuters

Aitor Karanka went into the game with Leeds earlier this week aware that a defeat may result in Forest terminating his contract, but the Spaniard has been given a reprieve due to his side's dramatic triumph against the Championship leaders.

There is an argument that Karanka should not be under as much pressure as has been reported, but the 45-year-old has at least brought himself some time to prove that he remains the man to deliver promotion to the Premier League.

Just five points have been recorded from their last half-a-dozen outings at the second tier, although it is a period which has included games against the top two in the standings and fierce rivals Derby County.

That period followed a run of 11 points from five matches and although Forest sit four points adrift of the playoffs, they at least remain firmly in the promotion hunt at a time when the club's hierarchy will look to strengthen the squad.

The trip to England's capital to play Chelsea will be regarded as an opportunity rather than a fixture where a result is required at all costs, and that may play into Karanka's favour.

There will be changes to the starting lineup after such a run of fixtures, but Karanka has already used 25 players in the league this season and he will have confidence in whichever team he selects at the weekend.

Forest have already had success against Premier League opposition this season, with a dramatic 3-2 win being registered over Newcastle United in the second round of the EFL Cup.

The East Midlands outfit received their fair share of luck during the closing stages, but that game is one of many this season where they have risen to the occasion in big matches and that could prove to be the case this weekend.

Recent form: LDLDLW

Team News

Cesc Fabregas in action for Chelsea on November 7, 2018© Reuters

Sarri is expected to hand a starting role to Fabregas as the Spaniard reportedly bids farewell to Chelsea after four-and-a-half years at the club.

The Italian is also likely to change his entire back four, with Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen, Ethan Ampadu and Emerson Palmieri potentially making up the backline.

Gary Cahill could be left out in order for the centre-back to avoid becoming cup-tied, but Eden Hazard may keep his spot in the team due to the injuries sustained by Willian, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Olivier Giroud will play no part in the game, but Mateo Kovacic could return from illness with Jorginho and N'Golo Kante being left out.

Michael Hefele is absent for Forest after suffering an Achilles injury against Leeds, while Tobias Figueiredo will only feature if he has recovered from a dead leg.

Michael Dawson remains out, so Claudio Yacob could be used in the centre of defence having dropped back into that position against Leeds.

Lewis Grabban is a huge doubt through injury, but Ben Osborn could be given a start after coming off the bench to score on New Year's Day.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Zappacosta, Christensen, Ampadu, Palmieri; Kovacic, Fabregas, Barkley; Loftus-Cheek, Morata, Hazard

Nottingham Forest possible starting lineup:
Steele; Janko, Yacob, Fox, Robinson; Guedioura, Colback; Lolley, Osborn, Dias; Murphy

Head To Head

Saturday's meeting will represent the 93rd competitive contest between the two clubs, with Chelsea winning 38 times in comparison to 26 victories for Forest.

The teams have only squared off on three occasions since the turn of the millennium, and each game has been played in either the FA Cup or League Cup.

Chelsea have prevailed in all three encounters, with the most recent victory coming by a 5-1 scoreline in last season's EFL Cup.

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We say: Chelsea 3-1 Nottingham Forest

Chelsea have struggled for goals of late, but this contest appears to be the ideal opportunity for Morata to regain some confidence. Forest will cause their hosts some problems on the break, but Chelsea should have enough quality in their ranks to come through in comfortable fashion.

Who will win Saturday's FA Cup clash between Chelsea and Nottingham Forest?

Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest
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Maurizio Sarri on the touchline during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on November 4, 2018
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