The young Blues have not lost a Youth Cup tie since May 2013 and, as the competition winners for the past four seasons, will naturally assume the title of favourites against the youngsters from Lincolnshire.
Leading the Under-18 Premier League south section by six points, manager Jody Morris will be able to call on the services of eligible players who spend the majority of their training and playing time with the older academy age groups, such as Reece James, Dujon Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi, as well as the reliable core that have performed so well in the youth team programme. Morris acknowledges that selection boost is a big advantage so long as every member of the group maintains maximum focus and motivation.
‘It’s always better when you have a bigger pool of players to choose from but that can also lead to disappointment when players miss out on being involved,’ he explains to the official Chelsea website as we look ahead to tonight’s tie.
‘You have to hope everyone deals with it in the right way. We have a meeting with the players every year before the first Youth Cup game, which is good to reminisce over what’s gone on in previous years, to get the appetite going again for this competition but also to relive a few stories.
‘Some players have missed out on selection in the past because they haven’t treated the competition or the team with as much respect as they should have. It’s important we remind everybody that our team spirit and camaraderie has been crucial in carrying us through some tough situations in previous seasons.’
Callum Hudson-Odoi has been a development squad regular but could return to the Under-18s for the start of our FA Youth Cup campaign tonight.
The youth team have lost just once in 14 outings so far this campaign but Morris is eager to point out some favourable results have masked indifferent displays. While those looking in may view the side as dominant in victory, it is the job of Morris and his staff to examine more closely and the manager has certainly identified areas for improvement both collectively and among individuals.
‘We’re at the halfway stage of our league season and we have a better record than last year in terms of results and points but we know we’ve underperformed in games in which we’ve maybe not been punished like we should have,’ he continues.
‘We will remind the boys about the performance at Southampton in October when we lost 4-0 and the first half against Tottenham last weekend – if we play like that in any game, we’ll be in trouble.’
While the Blues have successfully navigated the third round for the past 12 years, Scunthorpe are making their first appearance at this stage of the competition since 2010/11.
‘Myself and Ed Brand [Under-18s assistant] watched their second round win at Cambridge and we were impressed with how they played and a few of their individuals. They tried to pass the ball, had a couple of decent players who stood out and fully deserved the win so we’ll be letting our players know all about that.’