YOUTH CUP PREVIEW: GOOD STADIUM, GOOD CHALLENGE
It has already been an eventful FA Youth Cup campaign for Adi Viveash and his side, with the dramatic extra-time comeback at Charlton in Round 4 the most obvious highlight, and the manager has called on his players to be at their best to book a place in the last four as they look to defend their crown.
The Blues Under-18s were impressive in the last round, comfortably seeing off the threat of Barnsley at Staines with a 3-0 win, and now look ahead to a quarter-final clash with Derby County and a trip to Pride Park this evening, in a game that can be seen live on Chelsea TV.
'It's another difficult tie,' youth team manager Viveash tells the official Chelsea website. 'I went to watch them play against Man City in the last round and they're a very hard-working team.
'We've done our homework, Joe [Edwards, Viveash's assistant] and I went to watch them and they thoroughly deserved to beat Man City. That wasn't a freak result, they really played well.
'We played them a couple of years ago in a pre-season friendly and they play a very high-tempo game, they're on the front foot, so it's going to be difficult but you expect that in a quarter-final.
'The nice thing is it's a really lovely stadium with a good big pitch that will suit us well so we're looking forward to seeing how the boys respond to the challenge. When you get to this stage of the competition and there's a potential semi-final in the making then I would hope we've got as much drive and determination as them.'
The manager was pleased with his side's progression from Round 5, emphasising a professional display all round against Barnsley that secured a quarter-final place for the young Blues in this competition for the fourth consecutive season.
'I took a lot of encouragement from our performance against Barnsley in the last round,' he reflects. 'It was very professional. What happens in cup competitions is you tend to improve as the rounds go on and I think that was certainly the case against Barnsley.
'It's the best we've looked and not just the scoreline but also a clean sheet was important because I always feel we're going to score goals, so we need to be nice and solid at the back.'
Goals have certainly been in plentiful supply for Viveash's side this season; they have netted three in each of their last three Youth Cup games and have bagged 37 in 17 league games. It is naturally something the manager is keen to see continue as we enter the final stretch of the campaign.
'We've looked like we've got goals in the team,' he says. 'There's a lot of pace and a lot of exciting players going forward, but they also have jobs to do the other way as well and our shape against Derby is going to be a very important part of the game.
'It's a game on a Friday night in a really good stadium, they're expecting a decent crowd so it's just the sort of game we want to challenge our boys in and see what they can produce.'
With the games coming thick and fast now across all the different age groups, it is natural for minor injuries to be managed in the build-up to a key game like Friday's, however Viveash is confident his squad will be in top condition for the trip to the Midlands.
'There's a few knocks and bruises from some tough games over the weekend. Obviously at Fulham on Friday was the Under-21s, which a lot of the boys play in, and that was quite a physical game, while the Under-18s against Southampton on Saturday morning was a high-speed encounter as well, but the boys have got enough games in their legs.
'This week is about managing the training to just make sure they hit the ground running at seven o'clock on Friday night.'
Chelsea TV's live coverage of the game begins at 6.30pm on Friday.
The game will take place at Derby's Pride Park, kick-off 7pm.
Chelsea season ticket holders will be permitted entry to the game for free on production of their 2012/13 season ticket.
Ticket prices for all other supporters are £3 for adults and £1 for children, and can be purchased on the night at the stadium. Fans are advised to arrive early.