UNDER-21S LOOK TO MAINTAIN WINNING HABIT
Our Under-21s return to action tomorrow when we entertain Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge, kick-off 7pm, and with a couple of key players having recently gone out on loan, Dermot Drummy is looking for those on the fringes to stake a claim for a regular place in the side.
The Blues need to finish top of Qualification Group Tier 1 in order to enter a play-off against the winner of Group 2, with a place in the semi-finals of the overall competition at stake, and having started with an impressive 2-0 win against local rivals Fulham a fortnight ago, the manager is simply delighted to be back in action.
'We're really pleased to have another competitive match after the postponement of the Everton fixture,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'You can train and train as much as you want, but you need to have a proper match to prepare for.
'We're playing at Stamford Bridge, which is really exciting for us all, and hopefully we'll get a big crowd because it's another level for the boys to be playing there.
'I really want to express my thanks to the groundstaff at Cobham for working tirelessly in order to allow us to train. It hasn't been easy given the recent weather conditions and they've done a great job.'
Having already faced Middlesbrough twice during the first half of the campaign, it's fair to say that the two sides will be reasonably familiar with each other.
We were beaten 3-1 in the home game back in September, while the last meeting, which took place at the Riverside at the start of last month, ended in a 3-2 Chelsea victory.
However, as Drummy explained, those two matches will count for very little when the players step out on to the pitch tomorrow night.
'They beat us and we beat them. Up at the Riverside, they had the better of the second half, after we'd played really well in the first half and took a 3-0 lead,' said the Blues boss.
'That game goes out of the window now because they may have a few different players involved, while from the team that played for us that night, Lucas [Piazon] has gone out on loan, Billy Clifford has also moved out on loan, so that means Ruben Loftus-Cheek will get more of a chance, while Jeremie Boga will come in as well.
'Nathan Ake has been involved with the first team lately, which is a big plus, but apart from that we only have Lamisha Musonda unavailable. We'll also have Jamal Blackman back with us, which is a bonus.
'It's really the majority of our youth team players, aside from a couple. It's a new phase; both ourselves and Middlesbrough will be looking to blood new talent, so it should make for a good game.'
The match against Fulham saw us dominate for large spells, and the three points were secured courtesy of second-half strikes from Islam Feruz and Lewis Baker.
Drummy was delighted with maturity shown by his players that night, and is confident we can make it back-to-back victories.
'I was really pleased against Fulham, and it was just a shame we didn't have another game within the next three or four days,' he said.
'The effort of the lads was great, but I was most happy about their tactical discipline and the manner in which they kept their shape.
'It's easy to lose your shape when you're chasing the ball and become tired, so it's important to be switched on when you don't have the ball, so that was good.
'I was pleased with all aspects of the performance, so hopefully we can carry that on against Middlesbrough.'
Tickets for the match are priced £5 for adults and £3 for juniors and seniors, and are available online and via the call centre on 0871 984 1905 until 5pm on Thursday 24 January.
Tickets will then be sold in person only at the box office until 4pm on Friday 25 January.
Customers should note that no tickets will be sold after 4pm on Friday 25 January.
Full coverage of the game will also be broadcast live and exclusive on Chelsea TV from 7pm.