Match Preview

Pre-Match Briefing: Chelsea vs Luton Town

Our FA Cup campaign continues at home to the Hatters this weekend, and club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready for Luton's first visit to Stamford Bridge in a generation... 

This weekend Chelsea’s FA Cup adventure moves from Morecambe in round three to the club of which comedian Eric Morecambe was once a director: Luton Town, a Conference side seven years ago, stand in the way of the Blues’ progress to the last 16.

It is the second west London trip in five days for the Hatters, who lost 1-0 at Brentford in the Championship on Wednesday. The last non-Premier League club to end the Blues’ interest in the FA Cup were Bradford, with a 4-2 win at the Bridge on the same day six years ago.

Chelsea and Luton have been drawn together in pursuit of the venerable old trophy three times before. The Londoners lost one of those after a replay at Kenilworth Road, but won the other two, most recently on the road to the final in 1994.

The unusual Sunday midday start time might summon cherished memories of another famous occasion in this competition, 24 years ago: the 3-0 semi-final victory over Wimbledon, which kicked off at the same time.

CHELSEA GOLD: Highlights and memories of the FA Cup semi-final against Wimbledon in 1997

Chelsea are seeking to reach the FA Cup fifth round for the 23rd time in 26 attempts.

photo of KEY STAT KEY STAT


Chelsea team news

Frank Lampard and Nathan Jones have met before across the technical area, when in charge of Derby and Stoke respectively in 2018/19. After the Potters secured a 0-0 at Pride Park, the then Rams boss felt ‘we were the only team trying to win the game, constantly and throughout.’ Perhaps that experience will inform Chelsea’s approach to this game.

After the setback at Leicester Lampard may appreciate the opportunity to experiment in the cup against a Championship side in the hope there is a knock-on effect in the league performances. A few players, including Thiago Silva, may be better off sitting this one out, but he might like to take another look at potential solutions in defence, midfield and wide attacking areas, and to a lack of finishing across the team.

Notable among those could be Kurt Zouma returning to central defence, Billy Gilmour resuming the holding role, Kai Havertz continuing his recuperation from Covid, and Timo Werner returning upfront after his disallowed goal as a sub against the Foxes.

Impressive Academy stars such as attacking midfielder Tino Anjorin may enjoy more minutes too, though the senior squad’s need to find form will probably mean fewer youngsters on the bench than would be ideal.

Tino Anjorin and Kurt Zouma in training this week


There has been a notable lack of getting in behind defences in recent games, but the Hatters often play a high defensive line with an offside trap the Blues will hope to spring.

Chelsea have only lost twice in the past 20 matches at the Bridge, winning 13 of the remainder.

How the teams reached this stage

Chelsea - R3 Morecambe h 4-0 
Luton - R3 Reading h 1-0

Handy Hatters 

Luton coach Nathan Jones has proved a canny tactician, rotating his side and formation to expose or shield vulnerabilities, mostly using a back four but opting for five of three as he sees fit. The Hatters, currently mid-table in the Championship, try to play a neat, intricate game, with ball-playing defenders and hard-working full-backs.

This season, however, they have had a few problems on the road. Only Watford have scored fewer league goals away from home than the Bedfordshire club’s six (with 14 conceded), whereas their tally at Kenilworth Road is a more equitable 15 for, 13 against.

Wednesday’s defeat at high-flying Brentford was their 25th outing in the demanding Championship campaign, but unlike the hosts they have no midweek fixture after this cup game.

The winning Brentford goal in midweek

Like Chelsea at Leicester, Luton were guilty of loose marking in conceding against the Bees and paid the price. They had plenty of chances to equalise, especially from crosses, but could not convert.

Jones may feel Luton can frustrate the Londoners, who look low on confidence. Away from home he has matched stronger sides who play a back three, and may field a 5-3-2 built for absorbing pressure and hitting on the counter at the Bridge.

The Hatters won through a Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall goal with that approach at promotion-chasing Bournemouth earlier this month, though the Cherries were reduced to 10 for the last hour.

The Bedfordshire club’s leading scorer with six league goals is 30-year-old Ireland forward James Collins. He, alongside Luton team-mate Jordan Clark, were in the Shrewsbury League Cup team beaten 2-1 on home soil by the Blues in October 2014.

James Collins and Gary Cahill tussle in Shropshire

Collins and fellow striker Harry Cornick will test the diligence of the referee’s assistant (or the VAR) as they have generated the Championship’s fourth-highest number of offsides.

Chelsea’s prowess at set-plays could present a problem for the Hatters. They have conceded six from dead-ball deliveries in the Championship this season (four on away grounds), but have netted eight of their 21 goals from such settings.

One of their free-kick specialists, club captain Alan Sheehan, departed this month with George Moncur, whose volley secured their passage to round three against Reading, taking up the mantle.

Tom Lockyer, who was on the losing side against the Londoners in the Carabao Cup with Bristol Rovers in 2016, was suspended after his midweek dismissal for violent conduct, but that been overturned on appeal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Bristol Rovers (H) EFL Cup 16/17

Other familiar faces include Kazenga LuaLua, once of Newcastle, former Southampton defender Martin Cranie (who is currently injured), and ex-Manchester Utd midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe, a late sub in the mad 5-4 League Cup game at the Bridge in October 2012. 

How to watch Chelsea versus Luton

This match will be covered live by BBC One in the UK. All 16 round four ties will for the first time be covered live on the BBC and BT Sport.

When is the next FA Cup draw?

The draw for round five was conducted straight after that for round four. Winners of this coupling already know they will face a trip to Luton's fellow Championship sides Barnsley or Norwich in the last 16 in the second midweek of February.

FA Cup 2020/21 rules

There have been a few amendments to the rulebook for this season, most obviously the removal of all replays and the allowance of five substitutes, drawn from a bench of nine, in three batches excluding half-time. If a match is all-square after 90 minutes, extra time will be played and, if necessary, penalty kicks will decide the outcome.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system will be used in all ties hosted at Premier League stadiums, including this one.

VAR in the Cup

When the Shed serenaded Kerry

This is the fifth time Luton Town have reached round four since losing to Chelsea in the last four on 9 April 1994 at Wembley. That was the Blues’ first FA Cup semi-final at the Twin Towers, and eighth visit in various competitions.

An overwhelmingly Blue 60,000 crowd hailed a new hero in Gavin Peacock, who scored both the game’s goals to secure a final berth not enjoyed since 1970, but still found time to laud a legend of the recent past, Kerry Dixon.

‘The Chelsea fans gave me a wonderful reception,’ said Dixon later, ‘and to actually have them singing my name after the game was very moving. It was probably the most emotional day of my life apart from scoring for England on my debut.’

Dixon scoring for Chelsea on Luton's plastic pitch in 1985

At the Bridge in round three on 8 January 1927, playing ‘speedy, symmetrical football’, Chelsea won 4-0 with Turnbull and Thain braces.

Long before the days of VAR, Turnbull’s handling of the ball before one of his goals went unpunished, but the Londoners could have scored many more times: John Priestley, for one, shot a penalty straight into the keeper’s arms.

Talking of which, the meeting at the same stage in January 1935 at the Bridge heightened the clamour for two referees on the pitch when a goal from a corner was whistled for the Division Three visitors despite never crossing the line.

Despite a host of chances missed in front of the 46,492 crowd, Jimmy Argue’s equaliser did not come till the last 10 minutes. The Hatters won the replay at Kenilworth Road four days later, furthering the Pensioners’ reputation for stumbling against lower league teams in the cup.

The FA Cup at the Bridge

This is the 16th time from the past possible 23 that Chelsea have been drawn at home in the FA Cup. On top of seven ties on away grounds, the Blues have played six semi-finals and finals on neutral soil.

FA Cup football at the Bridge - a familiar sight in recent years

For three years the showpiece itself was staged at Stamford Bridge, and 24 April last year brought the 100th anniversary of the first of those. There were two more before the fixture moved to Wembley: 23 April 1921, and 29 April 1922.

Round four matchday programme 

The feature-packed and potentially historic souvenir programme for this match can be bought online for £3.50 plus postage.


FA Cup fourth round fixtures featuring Premier League sides

Friday
Chorley v Wolves - 7.45pm (BT Sport)

Saturday
Southampton v Arsenal - 12.15pm (BT Sport)
Brighton v Blackpool - 3pm (BT Sport)
Sheffield Utd v Plymouth - 3pm (BBC Digital)
West Ham v Doncaster - 3pm (BBC Digital)
Cheltenham v Man City - 5.30pm (BBC One)

Sunday
Chelsea v Luton - 12pm (BBC One)
Fulham v Burnley - 2.30pm (BT Sport)
Brentford v Leicester - 2.30pm (BT Sport)
Man Utd v Liverpool - 5pm (BBC One)
Everton v Sheffield Wed - 8pm (BT Sport)

Monday
Wycombe v Tottenham - 7.45pm (BT Sport)

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