After an impressive 2-1 victory over Manchester City in midweek, Frank Lampard made significant changes to the team, with the busy schedule ahead clearly weighing heavily on his mind. Kante remained as the deepest player in the midfield, as he has since project restart, with Gilmour coming into the team as a CM. Willy Caballero, Reece James, Kurt Zouma and Emerson also earned their first starts since lockdown, along with Tammy Abraham who replaced Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea started in poor fashion, giving Leicester the upper hand in midfield, as Billy Gilmour struggled to assert himself in the game. The first 20 minutes were uncomfortable for the Blues as two set pieces resulted in free headers for Leicester, forcing Caballero into action. It was once again a sign that our defending from set pieces needs major work, with runners able to get free from their markers, as had happened in both our previous games.
The first drinks break gave Lampard an opportunity to try and lift the team into action, and although there was an improvement in possession, the game did become more open. Leicester still managed to create chances, and Tielemans’ strike forced Caballero to make a smart save to keep the scoreline level.
Christian Pulisic looked lively as he was presented with Chelsea’s best chance of the half, set up by Mason Mount. Cutting inside as he likes to do, the American unleashed a fierce strike towards the centre of the goal, which was brilliantly saved by Kasper Schmeichel. Pulisic was looking particularly sharp and our most likely source of a goal in the first half.
There were few real Chelsea chances after that, with a rare run in behind our defence from Jamie Vardy, the only real standout moment, along with a Harvey Barnes shot into the empty stands. Toni Rudiger and Zouma had done a good job from open play to stop Leicester’s attackers from breaking past our defensive line. However, the performance from Chelsea was extremely lacklustre, with changes expected at the break.
In Ross Barkley’s post game interview, he relayed that Frank Lampard had told the team that the performance was simply not good enough for the Chelsea badge, which gave the players the motivation they needed to improve. Lampard told BT Sport that he would have made 8/9 substitutions if he was able, clearly signifying his anger at the way his team had played.
Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount and Reece James were all replaced at half time by Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley and club captain Cesar Azpilicueta. The three of them introduced some urgency into Chelsea’s play and we started to dominate proceedings.
Azpilcueta and Barkley were involved for the goal, as the Spaniard linked up with Willian down the right hand side, whose cross was met beautifully by Barkley, beating a scrambling Schmeichel. It was his third goal in the competition this season, after scoring against Nottingham Forest and Liverpool in the previous rounds. Barkley is becoming quite the FA Cup hero for Chelsea.
Loftus-Cheek and Pedro later came in on in place of Pulisic and Willian, with Leicester throwing everything at Chelsea. Soyuncu had a great chance to level things, but Azpilicueta was alert and stopped any remaining danger.
The Blues looked the more likely to score again with Barkley instrumental in driving forwards with the ball, but was let down by poor decision making in the final third. This was epitomised most when Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had replaced Pulisic, punched the ground in frustration, as a Barkley pass was misplaced. The chance did come back to him, as a powerful effort from Chelsea’s #8 was saved by Leicester’s Danish keeper once more, in the last moments of the game.
Mike Dean blew for full time shortly afterwards, with Chelsea through to Wembley where they will play Manchester United for a place in the final.
The game was a chance for some rotational players to get minutes under their belt, and Lampard will surely be pleased with an increased level of fitness, but the performance was one of concern, and big improvements will be needed against West Ham on Wednesday night.