This Monday sees Chelsea’s first reserve match since the transfer window closed at the end of January, and it was a window that will have an interesting impact on Brendan Rodgers’ selection at this level. For the visit of Fulham, we could see one or two new faces in blue.
Franco Di Santo signed late in the month for some £4m from Chilean outfit Audax Italiano. The 18 year-old, by his own admission, needs some time to acclimatise to the English game, and expects to be a reserve team player for the rest of this season. He started his Blues career well enough, scoring a header in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Colchester last week, and is set to lead the line at Griffin Park, where Chelsea fans can get their first looks at the boy labelled ‘Crespito’.
Also signed in January was Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic, for £9m from Lokomotiv Moscow. Ivanovic is expected to be a major part of Avram Grant’s senior squad but having not played a competitive match in six weeks due to the ending of the Russian season, he needs match practice. The right-back or centre-back also featured in the reserve outing against Colchester last week and may get some action against Fulham ahead of the FA Cup tie against Huddersfield next weekend.
Indeed, looking forward to that tie are the likes of Scott Sinclair and Ben Sahar, two of the brightest reserve talents with first-team experience. The two are likely to be involved on Monday, perhaps featuring in a trident attack with Di Santo, or with Miroslav Stoch. Regardless, they will hope to impress enough to earn a start against upcoming League One opponents, and to avoid an injury that may rule them out of that game.
January also saw the loan departures of Liam Bridcutt, Adrian Pettigrew, and Anthony Grant, as well as the extended loans of Jack Cork and Ryan Bertrand, and Harry Worley being allowed a trial at Leicester with a view to a permanent move. Consequently, there are some holes in the team to fill in, and a decreased amount of ‘dead wood’ in the team. The likes of Ofori-Twumasi, Bruma, Taiwo, Mellis, and Kakuta should get ample time over the remainder of the season to really press on and perhaps earn a loan move for next season. With Bridcutt’s departure to Yeovil, and Sam Hutchinson still likely to be absent injured, the team may turn to Carl Magnay to captain the side.
Whoever Rodgers selects, they’re pretty likely to be up against an extremely experienced Fulham side. With Lawrie Sanchez last summer bringing in some twenty players and Roy Hodgson doing his level best to match that number in the transfer window, the Cottagers have a huge first-team squad, which leaves a number of players playing in their reserve team.
Last time out against Arsenal the team featured Tony Warner, Jimmy Bullard and Lee Cook, and previously against Tottenham the likes of Moritz Volz and Adrian Leijer turned out. However, Billy McKinlay can also call upon some extremely talented young footballers, such as centre-back Matthew Briggs, winger Lino Goncalves, and striker Lewis Smith alongside perennial reserve team striker Ishmael Ehui.
Back in October Fulham triumphed 3-2 at Motspur Park with goals from Leijer, Collins John, and Shefki Kuqi. Chelsea’s team saw Wayne Bridge sent off on his return to action from an injury layoff.
Kick off is at 7pm at Brentford’s Griffin Park stadium. Admission is just £5 for adults and £3 for juniors / senior citizens (cash at the turnstiles) and is free for Chelsea Season Ticket holders on production of their card. Why not go along and support the Blues?
In terms of getting to Griffin Park, the nearest train station is Brentford, which can be reached by a regular service from Waterloo and Clapham Junction. By tube, Gunnersbury is about one mile from the ground on the District Line. A match report will follow on CFCnet.