MX23RW : Tuesday, January 29 13:14:50

Preview: Chelsea vs. Sheffield Wednesday - prediction, team news lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday's FA Cup fourth round clash between Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday.

Chelsea head into Sunday's FA Cup fourth round clash with Sheffield Wednesday looking to move a step closer to defending the trophy that they won against Manchester United in May.

Sheffield Wednesday make the trip to Stamford Bridge sitting in 16th place in the Championship table, but the Owls have prevailed in their last two fixtures in all competitions.


Maurizio Sarri in charge of Chelsea on January 8, 2019© Reuters

Maurizio Sarri was not shy in criticising his players after the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend, and the outburst in the media could have been perceived as a crossroads moment for the Italian.

However, Sarri's side responded in the best possible way on Thursday night as progress to the EFL Cup final was secured with a penalty-shootout triumph over Tottenham Hotspur after trailing their rivals from the first leg.

Chelsea looked like giving up their half-time advantage during the early stages of the second half, but the West Londoners produced a positive response before setting up a showdown with Manchester City next month.

Sarri will not give that fixture much thought until the week of the game, but it at least suggests that the former Napoli man is capable of getting the best out of his players at a time when their backs must have felt against the wall.

There remains an insistence to continue with a system which has not always produced results and goals in recent weeks, but the acquisition of Gonzalo Higuain should only provide Chelsea with an extra cutting edge in the final third.

Too many chances have gone begging and the club's current position in the Premier League is reflective of that, but Higuain has shown in the past that he can be the difference maker should he be provided with openings in the penalty area.

A game at home to a Championship side is an opportunity for Sarri to ease Higuain into life in English football, but the club's supporters will be expecting an immediate return from the next player to be given a chance to deliver the goods in the number-nine shirt.

Higuain's presence will also ease the pressure on the fringe players given a rare chance from the opening whistle on Sunday night, but there will be a desire for everyone selected to prove their worth with Chelsea known to be looking for extra additions before the end of the month.

Recent form (all competitions): DWLWLW

Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday caretaker manager Lee Bullen on December 29, 2018© Reuters

Sheffield Wednesday have arguably found themselves in limbo throughout January with Steve Bruce not due to become the club's new manager until February 1, but caretaker boss Lee Bullen has done an excellent job in the dugout over the past month.

The stand-in boss has recorded four wins and three draws from eight matches in all competitions, and his short tenure will be deemed a success with 11 points coming from a possible 18 in the Championship.

The Owls have failed to score more than one goal in any of Bullen's eight games, but the defence has been tightened with five clean sheets coming over the same period.

Wednesday now sit 12 points clear of the relegation zone and although the league remains the club's priority, it at least provides Bullen with the chance to play his first team at Stamford Bridge.

The Yorkshire outfit have taken the chance to rotate in this competition over the past 12 months, but Bullen will have confidence in his side that they can cause a surprise against the Premier League giants.

Wednesday went to both of Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion - two of the biggest clubs at the second tier - over the Christmas period and recorded four points from those fixtures.

A 3-0 setback was recently suffered at Hull City, but back-to-back wins and shutouts against Luton Town and Wigan Athletic have shown that Bullen's men are over that defeat.

There is little doubting that Wednesday remain underdogs for this weekend's game, but this team know how to keep matches within their grasp until the closing stages and that could play into their favour against their inconsistent opponents.

Recent form: DW
Recent form (all competitions): DDDLWW

Team News

New Chelsea signing Gonzalo Higuain waves to the crowd ahead of the EFL Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur on January 24, 2019© Reuters

Chelsea assistant Gianfranco Zola has suggested that Higuain will make his debut at the weekend, and the loanee could potentially replace Olivier Giroud in attack.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has returned to training after a back problem, but the England international is only likely to be named among the substitutes.

Sarri will make several alterations with Willy Caballero, Andreas Christensen, Ethan Ampadu, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi all in contention to feature in the first XI.

Wednesday will be without defender Michael Hector - who is unable to feature against his parent club - while Joshua Onomah remains absent and will return to training next week.

The rest of the starting lineup could remain the same, with Steven Fletcher staying in the team ahead of Atdhe Nuhiu.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Zappacosta, Rudiger, Christensen, Alonso; Kante, Ampadu, Kovacic; Willian, Higuain, Hudson-Odoi

Sheffield Wednesday possible starting lineup:
Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Thorniley, Fox; Hutchinson, Reach; Matias, Bannan, Boyd; Fletcher

Head To Head

Sunday's match will represent the 125th competitive meeting between the two sides, with Wednesday having won 41 times in comparison to 37 victories for Chelsea.

The clubs have not crossed path since 2000, with the Owls running out 1-0 victors thanks to a penalty from Dutchman Wim Jonk.

Chelsea are unbeaten in the last seven outings against Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.

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We say: Chelsea 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Sarri may make a number of alterations to his starting lineup, but that should not prevent the Blues from recording a comfortable win on Sunday evening with those being brought into the team motivated to impress their head coach.

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Eric Dier in action for Spurs on January 24, 2019
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