FA Cup run can be beneficial for Chelsea in Premier League race

Chelsea's Willian celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Emirates FA Cup, fourth round match at Stamford Bridge, London. (Photo by Scott Heavey/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chelsea's Willian celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Emirates FA Cup, fourth round match at Stamford Bridge, London. (Photo by Scott Heavey/PA Images via Getty Images) /

Chelsea turn their attention towards the FA Cup this weekend, and a good cup run would help this side in the long term.

As Chelsea pick off the pieces from last week’s draw against Burnley, it’s time for them to redirect their focus onto the FA Cup. Wolverhampton Wanderers await Antonio Conte’s side. Though Wolves are languishing near the bottom of England’s second tier, they have already proved they will be no pushovers. In the fourth round, Wolves pulled off a shocking 2-1 victory at Anfield. They have earned their place amongst the other 15 teams left in the competition.

For Chelsea, the fifth-round clash offers a chance to put the Premier League to the back-burner for a week. With no European football and an early exit from the League Cup, the FA Cup has been the only other focus for the Blues this year. Convincing home wins against Peterborough and Brentford in the earlier rounds have led to their last-16 appearance.

Conte and his players are by all appearances taking their involvement in the competition seriously. The heavy wins are the most obvious evidence. Michy Batshuayi, Willian and Cesc Fabregas usually start on the bench in the league, and have used the cup as a chance to prove their credentials.

More from The Pride of London

The FA Cup been a beneficial campaign so far, apart from John Terry’s red card against Peterborough. The competition even allowed Branislav Ivanovic to receive the send-off he deserved before his exit for Russia. Ivanovic scored and won a penalty in the last round versus Brentford, just days before his departure.

The FA Cup has been a fun ride so far for the Blues. But among the final 16 games, the competition gets more serious. Liverpool’s exit shows the rest of the big teams that they must give due respect to their lower-tier opposition.

Wolves outplayed Jurgen Klopp’s men at Anfield, as Plymouth left the same stadium with a draw in the third round. “Cupsets” make the FA Cup so special. Conte must ensure his side do not become another victim of the tournament’s magic.

With only the Premier League to worry about for the majority of the year, Chelsea likely welcome the distraction of the FA Cup. Unless the contests end deadlocked, there is no immediate midweek football which allows for a week’s rest before the next Premier League fixture.

There are very few negatives to being involved in the FA Cup. Progressing to the final would only add an extra three games onto an already light schedule. The League Cup exit at the hands of West Ham back in October was disappointing due to the lack of competitions Chelsea found themselves in. That loss at least removed midweek fixtures before and after the busy Christmas period.

More from FA Cup

Given the schedule, being knocked out of the FA Cup will deprive Chelsea with an opportunity to maintain match fitness. The draw against Burnley, though satisfying to a point, will still bother the team, especially as Manchester City cut their gap to eight points.

The last time the Blues had their lead cut was following the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham. What followed after that game? A FA Cup contest which Chelsea won 4-1. The Blues would go onto win three league games from four, capitalising on the relief that the cup win offered them following the loss to Spurs.

Instead of sitting around and focusing on their draw at Turf Moor, or possibly even looking ahead to the match-up with Swansea a week earlier than they should, Antonio Conte has been able to focus his men on visiting the Molineux on Saturday. A win there would see them into the quarter-finals, just a game away from a trip to Wembley.

The FA Cup certainly has its benefits for a Chelsea side already well-rested compared to their fellow title challengers. Winning becomes a habit. As shown by their winning streak earlier in the campaign, this side certainly enjoys it. Adding a good cup run to their impressive league form will only help boost the confidence and momentum of the squad.