Our development squad are in action at Stamford Bridge tonight (Wednesday) as the Checkatrade Trophy returns to west London with a last-16 encounter against Peterborough United.
Tickets can still be purchased online and with the telesales until 5pm, and will remain on sale at the ticket office up until kick-off for those supporters wishing to come down and get behind our youngsters.
Joe Edwards’s side defeated AFC Wimbledon in the last round, their third win in the competition this term, and the manager has called on his players to excel at the fundamentals in order to continue their journey towards Wembley.
‘We’ve done well in the competition and played pretty well in every game so far,’ Edwards tells the official Chelsea website as we look ahead to the tie. ‘Even in our one defeat at Newport, we actually played quite well at times but the big reminder was the importance of defending the box well.
‘We controlled large parts of the game and played some good football but we were weak in our own box, which is an area where the teams from League One and League Two are so strong and where they often have the physical advantage over us at times.
‘In the other games, where we’ve got the basics right in terms of physically competing, being brave and putting our bodies on the line, it’s given us a platform to play and shown the quality we have in our team.’
— Joe Edwards
Working and competing to earn the platform to play has been a theme throughout our three years of involvement in the senior Checkatrade Trophy. Peterborough, currently seventh in League One, will certainly provide a stern test as they battle for a place in the quarter-finals, and Edwards believes they will be one of the toughest sides his team have come up against so far.
‘Peterborough are as strong as any team we’ve faced in the competition, from a collective point of view but also individually,’ the manager continues. ‘They have some gifted players, particularly in attacking areas of the pitch, so we need to make sure we’re solid, competitive and we defend well.
‘You expect the level to go up as you progress through the knockout rounds. They’ve also bought some new players in as recently as this week so there might be some new faces that we haven’t seen play for them.
‘When we first got the draw they were fourth in League One but over the Christmas period they haven’t had many wins. However, I’d imagine they’ll see this game at Stamford Bridge, against a young team in a knockout stage of the competition, to get some form and momentum back, so we’re expecting a really difficult game against a strong team.’
The Blues reached the semi-finals last season and were only beaten after a penalty shoot-out away to Lincoln City, the eventual winners. Yet Edwards believes their run to the last-four in 2017/18 masks how difficult the competition is for the under-21 teams. Only seven academy sides made it out of the group stage into the last-32 this term, with just Newcastle, Manchester City and Chelsea reaching the last-16.
‘People are so used to seeing Chelsea academy teams enter tournaments and go right to the very end so it almost gets spoken about like it’s a given but the Checkatrade Trophy is definitely different,' adds Edwards.
‘We have no right to beat anyone in this competition at any stage. Lincoln beat us in the semi-finals last year, went on to win the final and have since been able to completely rebuild their training ground with the prize money. That shows how important this competition is to the league clubs, not to mention the opportunity to play at Wembley in the final.
‘As we’ve shown throughout the last two years, if we really turn up and apply ourselves at our maximum and work as hard as we can, then our quality can be enough to compete with anyone. We were missing that work ethic and intensity in our league game against Blackburn at the weekend and we were punished, which was a timely reminder for the boys. We must apply ourselves much better against Peterborough and, if we do that, of course we have the chance to cause them problems.’
Chelsea versus Peterborough United in the Checkatrade Trophy kicks off at 7pm tonight at Stamford Bridge. Click here to purchase tickets priced at just £5 for adults and £3 for concessions. The game will also be screened live on Chelsea TV and there will be updates from the Bridge throughout the evening on our official @chelseafc Twitter.