Naturally Chelsea are heading to Hull City’s stadium today desperate to avoid a defeat that would eliminate us from this season’s FA Cup, and we have extra motivation to make sure the game does not end in a draw either.
True, if the scores are level after 90 minutes it would give Frank Lampard’s side another chance to overcome the Championship side and enter round five, with the replay to be held at Stamford Bridge, but the extra game would eat into the ground-breaking winter break introduced into the Premier League for the first time this season.Should a second match be required to separate the Blues and the Tigers in the FA Cup fourth round, the replay is set to be in the middle of the first week of two currently free from matches between our league encounters with Leicester and Manchester United.The winter break and general player fatigue are subjects addressed this weekend by Lampard, and he starts by detailing plans for the free fortnight if there is no replay against Hull.‘The players will have some rest,’ he says.‘We are not going to travel to train anywhere. I’ll let them go to be with their families or back to their countries or whatever it may be, that is their choice, and then we will be back here to train and have not a mini pre-season but there will be some hard work after they have had a good rest.‘I don’t know where else they could have put FA Cup replays. What I do know is that when we get back, we go into a busy period of big, big games for us and we go into the Champions League as well, so it will affect our break if that [a replay] happens. And I am guessing and hoping there was nowhere else to put that game.’
Lampard expresses some support for the idea of doing away with FA Cup replays for all rounds altogether as a way of thinning out a crowded fixture list, but does admit to being a little caught in the middle of that argument due to being a stickler for football tradition.‘When it comes to a cup like the FA Cup then it is very important that we try to stay close to that tradition’ he explains, ‘because it needs to keep its relevance. But now where the game is moving on it is certainly a conversation that needs to be had and thought about very seriously.’
The possible detrimental effect of the recently crowded spell of games over Christmas and New Year has been in the spotlight following a succession of injuries to leading strikers Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy and our own Tammy Abraham. It was a subject Lampard discussed yesterday although he was quick to point out the Chelsea centre-forward’s is an impact injury unlike the others. The discussion continues today.‘The physical demands are maybe year on year becoming more and more demanding for the players,’ says Lampard.‘Physically I am demanding in what I want from my players on and off the ball and those things when you are playing regularly can be a bit of a strain. I don’t think it has come that far from when I was playing but even when I was playing, I remember at times being rotated or players around me being rotated so I don’t think that is completely new. It is probably just done a little bit more since I have finished, but I think the demands are getting more.
‘Now we do have a winter break. You can argue when that break is because these injuries have come just before it so maybe that puts it under the spotlight. But we do have the two-week break now and I think that will be a benefit for sure.‘Probably in my era the constant demands of the Premier League right through the season were something that could be seen as having an effect. It is not an excuse but I think it did have an effect.’Lampard has reported that Michy Batshuayi will start up front today at Hull but Reece James has not recovered sufficiently from injury to be involved.
Read: Our preview to today's FA Cup game