Chelsea will be positively desperate to clinch victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, but defeating the Premier League champions will be no easy task, having already tasted defeat on home turf to Pep Guardiola’s side just three days ago.
The loss at Stamford Bridge, a close encounter that the Sky Blues won 1-0 after Riyad Mahrez’s second-half finish, represented a stark polarity between the two teams at present; City established, cohesive and fully fit, while injury-riddled Chelsea flounder for form.
Chelsea’s recent form under Graham Potter has left little to be admired, with the Blues winning just one of their past six games across all competitions, but the FA Cup third round tie against City offers the path for both redemption and could even act as the catalyst for change.
While the current season – with new ownership and a new manager – may be accepted as one of transition, there is simply no excusing the sheer decline in results which has left the west Londoners adrift from Champions League contention, currently languishing in tenth place with just 25 points from 17 games.
However, amid their latest setback on Thursday against Man City, there was one exciting young prospect who glistened against one of the most formidable teams in world football.
Carney Chukwuemeka, who signed from Aston Villa in the summer for roughly £20m, replaced Christian Pulisic after just 22 minutes on Thursday night, with the USA international having had to withdraw due to injury.
Crafting a Sofascore rating of 7.1 – the joint-highest of any Blues player on the night – the 19-year-old impressed with his direct approach and imposing physicality, enjoying 47 touches, completing 87% of his passes and making one key pass.
He also hit the woodwork in what was nearly the most resounding way to announce himself on the big stage, while his two interceptions and six tackles illustrated the robust, all-encompassing nature of his game.
Ahead of a quick rematch against City, the “phenomenal” Chukwuemeka – as hailed by Melissa Reddy – must find his place in the starting line-up, taking advantage of his team-mates’ hapless injury luck and making an impact to earn a shot for further opportunities in Chelsea’s ambitious setup.
If he can replicate the form that he has started to forge, the “real prospect” – as dubbed by Gregg Evans – could prove to be a vital cog in the Stamford Bridge machine, playing a definitive role for Potter and perhaps earning him the sweetest victory of his Chelsea tenure so far.