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Hakim Ziyech‘s Chelsea career has been rather hit-and-miss so far, but the former Ajax man – who was snubbed by Morocco for an Africa Cup of Nations call-up – displayed his best qualities at Stamford Bridge to help his side sink London rivals Tottenham Hotspur again.
Ziyech’s stunning left-footed opener left Hugo Lloris rooted to the spot as the Spurs keeper could do nothing more than watch the ball sail into the top corner, and his strike preceded a header from the veteran Thiago Silva as Chelsea kept their fleeting title hopes alive.
It will be a tall order for the third-placed Blues to seriously challenge Manchester City for the Premier League crown now – with the reigning champions 10 points clear with a game in hand – but Tuchel’s men will certainly be determined to go one better in the FA Cup this season.
Chelsea surprised some with the strength of their line-up to welcome non-league Chesterfield to Stamford Bridge in the third round, but it paid dividends as the European champions ran out comfortable 5-1 winners on the day, and not since the 2014-15 season have the Blues exited in the fourth round – Bradford City will still ring an unwelcome bell for some supporters.
The 2-0 victory over Spurs before the international break represents Chelsea’s only win from their last three heading into this battle, but they are on a 14-game unbeaten streak at Stamford Bridge and are not in any sort of mood to become victims of a famous giant killing.
Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is preparing for the AFCON final with Senegal, but Tuchel will feel confident of welcoming Andreas Christensen back from COVID-19 infection.
Ben Chilwell remains out for the long-term with his ACL injury – with the Blues not bolstering their ranks in January to cover for the Englishman – and doubts also persist over the availability of Reece James, but Trevoh Chalobah was fit enough to make the bench against Tottenham.
The likes of Marcus Bettinelli, Timo Werner and Saul Niguez will all expect to be handed opportunities to shine here, and the same can be said for up-and-coming prospects Lewis Hall and Harvey Vale.
Meanwhile, Argyle were active in the January window with the acquisitions of Steven Sessegnon and Romoney Crichlow, although the latter is cup-tied and ineligible to feature here.
Brendan Galloway and George Cooper remain sidelined with their long-term knee issues, but Danny Mayor was fit to return from his back problem off the bench against Doncaster last time out.
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AFCON representative Panutche Camara – who featured in all three of Guinea-Bissau’s group games – could be fit enough to make his return to the first XI here, potentially putting Adam Randell‘s place in jeopardy.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Bettinelli; Hall, Chalobah, Sarr; Azpilicueta, Saul, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi; Ziyech, Havertz, Werner
Plymouth Argyle possible starting lineup:
Cooper; Edwards, Gillesphey, Scarr, Wilson, Grant; Camara, Houghton; Broom; Garrick, Jephcott