Our Under-21s return to action this evening when we make the short trip to take on Fulham at Craven Cottage, a game which can be seen live and exclusive on Chelsea TV.
Dermot Drummy’s side beat our local neighbours 2-0 at Cobham in January courtesy of goals from Islam Feruz and Lewis Baker, but the manager is expecting a sterner test this time around.
‘It’s always a tough fixture,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘When they play at Craven Cottage they sometimes put players who are on the fringes of their first team in the side to help with their fitness, which is good for us, so they will probably be stronger than when we played them at Cobham.
‘It’s a good pitch, a nice venue and it’s not too far for us to travel. There are some players who haven’t been involved that will be hungry to get into the side and that’s good for competition.’
The Blues will be hopeful of getting back in the winning habit after going down 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers in our last league encounter, a game in which we’d led after Marko Marin’s strike shortly after the break.
Drummy was disappointed at the manner in which we allowed the game to slip away, as he explains.
‘We should have won that game,’ he reflects. ‘I wasn’t too happy at the end because with the amount of possession we had we should have controlled the game, and we let them back in with a couple of defensive errors.
‘Having said that, the boys are still performing at a very high level and I’m confident we can get back to winning ways against Fulham.’
The manager is delighted to be able to call on the services of defender Todd Kane once again, who recently returned to the club following loan spells at Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers.
He also spoke about the progress of both Nathaniel Chalobah and Billy Clifford, with the duo currently playing regularly on loan at Watford and Colchester United respectively.
‘Todd was at Preston, he then played a few times for Blackburn and got Man of the Match in one of the games,’ explains Drummy.
‘I spoke with Gary Bowyer, their Under-21 coach, and they were really pleased with him, but Michael Appleton was honest with Todd and said he might not play as much as he would like, so he chose to come back.
‘He really enjoyed his time at Blackburn, though, and he spoke very highly of the club. It’s great to have him back, he’s so infectious in training and his performance in Barcelona in the NextGen game was great. His energy levels give us good attacking options both on the left and right.
‘It was the right time for Billy Clifford to go on loan to Colchester. They’re in a relegation fight, but Joe Dunne, their manager, spoke to [Chelsea Academy manager] Neil Bath and they’re really happy with him, on and off the pitch.
‘Eddie Newton and myself have been to watch Nathaniel Chalobah for Watford. They’re second in the Championship, they’re really making a push for promotion and that’s experience you can’t give.’
The manager, meanwhile, expressed his delight at our Under-19s being paired with either Juventus or Rosenborg in the quarter-finals of the NextGen Series having recorded a hugely-impressive 2-0 win away in Barcelona last week.
‘From our reports, Rosenborg are a very good side, and we obviously know that Juventus will be a quality outfit, so it should be a great occasion regardless of who we play,’ he says.
Chelsea TV’s coverage of tonight’s game begins at 7pm.