When it comes to the early rounds of FA cup, there is always a doubt about how kind of how impressive the starting XIs will be, but I would expect a high-quality Chelsea team to be named for the trip to the KCOM Stadium on Saturday evening.
Despite being hit with a summer transfer ban, Frank Lampard has one of the stronger squads in the Premier League at his disposal with the likes of Mason Mount, Marcos Alonso, Pedro and Ross Barkley left on the bench against Arsenal in midweek.
Added to that, Reece James should be given another opportunity to display his precocious talent. All five of those players should start on Saturday and will see this as a chance to stake a claim for a regular starting place in Lampard’s team.
The Chelsea manager will have to consider tactical and personnel changes after a performance lacking in conviction and cohesion in the 2-2 draw against Arsenal which is the continuation of a worrying downward trend in their home form in particular.
Chelsea have lost to West Ham, Southampton and Bournemouth at the Bridge since the end of November and are really struggling to break down defences to sit deep and deny them space. This was the case again against Arsenal as the comedy duo central defensive partnership of Xhaka and Mustafi coped relatively comfortably with Chelsea’s attack.
As was the case with Lampard’s Derby side in the Championship last year, Chelsea are vulnerable to quick counterattacks as seen by Gabriel Martinelli’s goal in midweek. Even without the slip from the out of sorts N’Golo Kante, a corner kick should not lead to a one-on-one counterattack when the team is 1-0 ahead.
I would remain sceptical about Lampard’s ability to fix these issues but he will be given a couple of transfer windows to address these concerns.
Hull made plenty of changes for their third-round win over Rotherham but I would expect Grant McCann to field a stronger team at home in front of the BT cameras. Hull sit cosily in mid-table mediocrity in the Championship, 15 points above the relegation places and seven points behind the top six, so this will be could be one their most meaningful matches left this season. It remains to be seen if their talisman Jarrod Bowen will be risked after newspaper reports indicate Hull are negotiating his sale to Newcastle.
Whether Bowen plays or not, this looks a solid bet. Chelsea have conceded in seven of their eight away league wins this season and this price looks a lot more appealing than the 4/9 on Chelsea to win the match.
Batshuayi is a player who tends to feast against lower grade opposition for club and country and I’d expect him to get plenty of chances to convert against this mid-table Championship defence.
*All odds correct at time of publication