With just three games to go, Nottingham Forest have their destiny back in their own hands, after beating Southampton in a seven-goals thriller. Up next is a trip to inconsistent Chelsea. If the Reds can come away with a point or more, they could do enough to get themselves over the line.
Nottingham Forest have been the master of their own downfall in recent weeks, dropping from the comfort of mid-table back into the bottom three. A surprise victory against Brighton brought back some belief, and last weekend’s win against Southampton has finally seen the Reds move back out of the relegation spots.
The trip to Stamford Bridge presents a difficult opportunity for Steve Cooper’s side, but with Leeds, Leicester and Everton all facing tough opposition this weekend, it is a fantastic opportunity for Forest to pull themselves away from the relegation pack.
Much like Nottingham Forest, Chelsea will be hoping to get this season over with as quickly as possible. The Blues are 11th in the table, five points off neighbours Fulham with four games remaining. Their ambitions of a Champions League finish are long behind them, and with nothing to play for, the best Frank Lampard can hope for is to steady the ship for whoever takes the helm in the Summer.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Where: Stamford Bridge, London.
When: Saturday 13th May 2023.
Time: 15:00 GMT.
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Assistants: Neil Davies, Scott Ledger.
Fourth official: Robert Jones.
VAR: Stuart Attwell.
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann.
That injury list just keeps on growing for Nottingham Forest! Both Renan Lodi and Serge Aurier came off injured on Monday night, with the latter likely to miss this weekend’s action. Even if Aurier is fit enough to make Saturday’s squad, Joe Worrall will likely start ahead of him on the right flank after impressing in his recent cameo performance.
Gustavo Scarpa, who arrived with big expectations in January could see a return to the team after being sidelined since April. The Brazilian has underwhelmed so far in England, but will no doubt be a welcomed addition as we near the end of the season.
Boasting the most expensive squad in World football, Chelsea aren’t without their own injury crisis. Eight players remain in the treatment room for Lampard’s side, including summer signings: Cucurella, Fofana and Koulibaly. With depth all over the pitch, Chelsea’s quality still outshines their Nottingham opponents, but it could still be a close run affair given the Blue’s poor run in form.
Chelsea finally turned a corner last weekend, as they scored two late goals to beat Bournemouth away from home. Despite their result, it would be negligent to say the Blues are fully back on track; as they looked second best against the Cherries who have grown back into life in the top flight.
With so many new players introduced, and three managerial changes, it’s no wonder nothing has clicked for Chelsea this season. Lampard’s return on a short-term basis is nothing more than an attempt to get points on the board, which is reflected in his tactical set-up. Chelsea still lack a recognised playing style and have no defined starting 11, something which will continue to imped their chances of immediate success.
Lampard will use this game as nothing but a training exercise for his team, almost like an early pre-season friendly. Still, players will want to perform, find their feet and get a result – which I believe all comes from midfield.
A lot of Forest’s recent success is down to the resurgence of Danilo, and the creativity within Forest’s midfield three, which should mirror that of Lampard’s set-up. The likes of Kante, Enzo and Gallagher could easily take Cooper’s three-man selection out of the game, nullifying any creativity and getting their side on the front foot. From here we will hopefully see the talents of Mudryk, Felix, Madueke and Sterling shine through, with all four players eager to stake their claim in the starting 11 for next season.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, they’re facing a Forest side with a ‘never say die attitude’ who seem determined to fight for their place in the Premier League. Gibbs-White, Danilo and Awoniyi are all beginning to light up the league, running rampant against most teams they’ve faced in recent weeks. However, one glaring issue is the structure of their backline.
Three times Champions League winner Keylor Navas has come under scrutiny recently for his sub-par performances, having the ability the seemingly stop a shot destined for the top corner but get beaten at his near post just five minutes later. The Costa Rican international has kept just one clean sheet since his arrival Trentside, a trend he will hope to end this weekend.
Chelsea: Mykhaylo Mudryk
Having arrived in London this winter, Mudryk has failed to live up to his £90m price tag so far, picking up just two assists in 13 league games. Something tells me there is more to come from the Ukraine this season. Could that be this weekend? Against a makeshift and fragile backline, Mudryk could finally have a turn of fortune against Nottingham Forest. If they can capitalise on their opponents poor away record, their attackers could have a field day.
Nottingham Forest: Danilo
Forest needed goals, and Danilo delivered them. The Brazilian has been on fire in recent games, linking up well with Forest’s other attacking players, and scoring in three consecutive fixtures. He’s taken his time adjusting to life in England, but is already looking more than worth the £17m Forest forked out for his signature. Extended his running form could be a step too far, but I expect him to play a significant role nonetheless.
Chelsea lineup vs Nottingham Forest: Kepa, Chillwell, Badiashile, Silva, Chalobah, Gallagher, Enzo, Kovacic, Mudryk, Felix, Madueke.
Nottingham Forest lineup vs Chelsea: Navas, Lodi, Felipe, Niakhate, Worrall, Mangala, Kouyate, Danilo, Gibbs-White, Johnson, Awoniyi.