Preview: Chelsea vs. Plymouth Argyle

Preview: Chelsea vs. Plymouth Argyle

Chelsea will seek a straightforward route into the fifth round of the FA Cup when they welcome Plymouth Argyle to Stamford Bridge for their fourth-round tie on Saturday lunchtime.

Thomas Tuchel’s men taught Chesterfield a footballing lesson in their opening encounter of this season’s tournament, while the visitors saw off Birmingham City in the third round.

Hakim Ziyech’s Chelsea career has been rather hit-and-miss so far, but the former Ajax man – who was snubbed by Morocco for an Africa Cup of Nations call-up – displayed his best qualities at Stamford Bridge to help his side sink London rivals Tottenham Hotspur again.

Ziyech’s stunning left-footed opener left Hugo Lloris rooted to the spot as the Spurs keeper could do nothing more than watch the ball sail into the top corner, and his strike preceded a header from the veteran Thiago Silva as Chelsea kept their fleeting title hopes alive.

It will be a tall order for the third-placed Blues to seriously challenge Manchester City for the Premier League crown now – with the reigning champions 10 points clear with a game in hand – but Tuchel’s men will certainly be determined to go one better in the FA Cup this season.

Chelsea surprised some with the strength of their line-up to welcome non-league Chesterfield to Stamford Bridge in the third round, but it paid dividends as the European champions ran out comfortable 5-1 winners on the day, and not since the 2014-15 season have the Blues exited in the fourth round – Bradford City will still ring an unwelcome bell for some supporters.

The 2-0 victory over Spurs before the international break represents Chelsea’s only win from their last three heading into this battle, but they are on a 14-game unbeaten streak at Stamford Bridge and are not in any sort of mood to become victims of a famous giant killing.

The New Year has not led to a new sense of defensive stability for this inconsistent Plymouth Argyle outfit, who were at risk of ending the month of January with zero League One wins to their name before a trip to basement side Doncaster Rovers presented itself.

Steven Schumacher’s men saw their futile hopes of keeping a clean sheet extinguished within 10 minutes courtesy of Branden Horton’s opener, but Luke Jephcott, Joe Edwards and Jordon Garrick responded for the Home Park outfit to keep them in the playoff conversation.

Only three points now separate Argyle from the top-six spots – with Schumacher’s men boasting a game in hand on every side in the playoff places – and they are no stranger to seeing off sides in higher divisions in the FA Cup, beating Championship outfit Birmingham 1-0 in the last round.

Not since the 2006-07 campaign have Argyle managed to progress past the fourth round of the FA Cup, and having conceded 10 goals in their last four games, Schumacher will be wary of Chelsea’s potent attackers enjoying a field day here.

Saturday’s meeting will mark the first clash between Chelsea and Argyle since the Blues ran out 1-0 winners in the 1988-89 second division, and the League One side have won a mere two games from 17 contests with the European champions in all tournaments – a paltry tally that is unlikely to be improved in the capital.

Chelsea FA Cup form:
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Chelsea form (all competitions):
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Plymouth Argyle FA Cup form:
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Plymouth Argyle form (all competitions):
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We say: Chelsea 4-1 Plymouth Argyle
Argyle have made a bit of a habit of producing goal-laden performances on the road and may fancy their chances against a youthful and depleted Chelsea backline, but their own issues in the defensive third could cost them dear once more.

With the Premier League title slipping further and further away from them, Chelsea ought to go strong in their bid for a shot at domestic silverware, and a simple route into the fifth round should await Tuchel’s men.

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