Chelsea v Plymouth Argyle
Saturday 5th February, kick-off 12:30
Live on BBC red button, BBC iPlayer and BBC website
Blues lack of transfer activity ahead of cup quests
A quiet time for several clubs in the transfer window including my own team West Ham, and also Chelsea, but the Blues pulled off a deal that came completely out of the blow by signing Charlton striker Mason Burstow - the 18-year-old who has scored six goals in 14 games.
I'd spoken about the teenager in one of my most recent League One columns and the instant impact he had at Floyd Road, so I hope he doesn't just disappear into their vast swathes of loaned out players. At least the Addicks have got him back for the season.
It appears a summer drive in terms of recruitment is on the agenda. A left-back is needed, and that has to be a priority.
Saturday's fixture comes as a prelude to their trip to the United Arab Emirates for the FIFA World Club Cup, with their current position in third a whole 10 points behind Manchester City as last season's FA Cup semi-finalists embark on their quest to beat Tottenham as the club with most wins in the competition, as the London rivals are both level on eight.
You can back Chelsea at 3.412/5 to Reach The Final, which looks a sound bet, and in the Winner market at 7.26/1. The latter gives the better trading option.
In terms of progress to the fourth round, they cruised past Chesterfield 5-1 with zero problems and a strong side. Timo Werner, Romelu Lukaku, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Andreas Christensen and Hakim Ziyech all scored, which is fairly ominous for Saturday's opponents as the Spirerites play in two leagues below.
Schumacher realistic on the challenge ahead
Plymouth's last victory over Chelsea was over 42 years ago, knocking the Blues out of the League Cup back in September 1979. However, they have been eliminated from each of their previous three FA Cup clashes with Chelsea and are any price you like for Saturday.
It's been a curious season for the Greens. Early on, under Ryan Lowe, their footballing brand was highly refreshing and they stormed towards the top and were looking potential title winners. But Lowe's work hadn't gone unnoticed, and Championship strugglers Preston duly moved to take their man in early December and Argyle haven't quite been the same force since.
Thirty-seven year-old Steven Schumacher was handed the job as Lowe's replacement almost immediately, but their form has been inconsistent. Pre-Schumacher, they'd taken 36 points in 20 games, since the switch, they have added 11 points in eight matches.
The Pilgrims pulled their own rabbit out of the hat with a superb move for Steven Sessegnon, the England U-21 international on loan from Fulham. Although in another west London twist, Harry McGlinchey left Home Park's Academy to make the move to Chelsea. He's a highly rated 14-year-old and the son of title-winner Brian back in 2001/2.
On facing the European champions, Schumacher said: "We know we are going to have to be organised, we know we are going to have defend really well, but we are also going to have to have a plan when we get the ball, what we are going to try and do."
They've already beaten Sheffield Wednesday over two legs, Rochdale and an extra-time win at Birmingham. Sessegnon will go into the squad according to reports, although fellow loan signing Romoney Crichlow is cup-tied. Long term absentees Brendan Galloway and George Cooper remain sidelined.
This will be the first meeting between Chelsea and Plymouth since February 1989, when the Blues ran out 1-0 winners in a second-tier match thanks to a winning goal from Kerry Dixon. This was the last campaign in which Chelsea did not compete within the English top-flight.
We haven't seen a market so one-sided since my old Alma Mater, North London Polytechnic, were defeated by Cambridge University in the Boat Race semi-final, it's an old one, and often recycled by me (its tenth airing), but you get the gist of the market differential.
Chelsea are 1.091/11 and Plymouth are 44.043/1. I cannot remember the last time I tipped or previewed a match with a team near to no offers, and there will be little value or scope in terms of any sort of trade in this market. Even if Plymouth score early, Chelsea will still be expected to win easily, so I doubt the hosts would even go to 1.21/5 with an early goal against.
The team news will be important as always with any Premier League team facing a lower-ranked opponent, although it's perhaps not the time to tip Chelsea Draw No Bet!
Malang Sarr, Andreas Christensen have been tipped to start by the Chelsea Chronicle, with experienced players such as Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva expected to make way.
However, the Blues fielded five Champions League winners in the previous round against a National League opponent, which was fairly ruthless from Tuchel.
To look for options elsewhere, and digging out value with a 1/18 shot isn't easy, but the west Londoners have won 10 of their last 11 FA Cup matches at the Bridge by an aggregate score of 30-4.
Backing Tuchel's men -3 in the Plymouth +3 market at 2.427/5 gives us something to aim at, especially if the team is akin to the Chesterfield line-up. An early goal will set up that bet nicely, so it could also be worth checking in with the Time Of First Goal market.
Last term's early rounds in the FA Cup saw Chelsea hit Morecambe for four and Luton 3-1, but there's still very little value in the Over 2.5 Goals at 1.331/3. While the Over 4.5 at 2.829/5 will pull in a few backers, the most appealing is the 5.5 bet at 5.59/2. Their xG processes recently have all been low at 1.04, 0.57, 0.61, 1.39 and 0.76, although featured in that run were Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Brighton.
Only Sergio Aguero (16) has scored more FA Cup goals since the 2013-14 campaign than Romelu Lukaku (14), despite not playing in the competition at all in 19-20 & 20-21. Indeed, the Belgian has scored in each of his last seven home matches in the competition across spells with Everton, Man Utd and current club. Already on the mark in the Cup this year, we can use the Betbuilder to play on the striker to Score Anytime, Over 3.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score 'Yes' in a treble that pays 3.711/4.
The pace of Timo Werner is something Plymouth won't be used to, and the German's collection of goals this season have all come in cup competition bar one in the league. Werner played the full 90 minutes and scored in the third round, and with him only playing 18 times this season for his club, he'd be fresher than most. Even with the winter break.
I like Werner in the First Scorer and Last Scorer markets at 16/5 and 7/2.
Plymouth have scored 28 goals on the road in League One - the third best in the division. Luke Jephcott and Ryan Hardie have formed an excellent partnership this season, although Hardie has struggled to recapture his early season form under Lowe. He'd netted 10 by October, but has only found the net twice in his last 17 games. Jephcott has three in his last three and is one of the designated penalty takers and is 13/2 to Score Anytime.