For those not enraptured by the World Cup and in need of a midweek Chelsea fix, you’re very much in luck. The Blues are in action this evening in the EFL Trophy against League One side Peterborough United, and there is a place in the last-16 of the competition up for grabs.
Chelsea’s Development Squad have performed well in this year’s competition, in which they have faced Sutton United, Oxford United, and Leyton Orient. Victory this evening would ensure the Blues’ place in the knockout stage, and head coach Mark Robinson is confident of another strong showing.
“The players are in good spirits after the run of results they have had,” he told Chelsea’s in-house media. “It would have been better to have had games leading up to Peterborough rather than just over two weeks off, but the players have been working hard to keep themselves sharp and focused.
“Peterborough are flying high in League One and play excellent, high-tempo football, so it’s the great challenge you want for our young players and one I feel like the players are relishing.”
The match will be the Development Squad’s final outing of the year, and that will mean a final opportunity for many players to impress senior head coach Graham Potter and his staff before next month’s warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, which will see those senior players not in action at the World Cup undertake a mini-pre-season.
Here we pick out the youngsters who will be hoping to catch the eye against Peterborough this evening.
The right full-back/wing-back production line at Cobham shows no sign of slowing. In the last decade, Reece James, Dujon Sterling, Tariq Lamptey and Tino Livramento have all starred at youth level for the Blues before then transitioning impressively to the senior game.
Rankine’s development hasn’t quite been as swift – he turned 20 years old in October – but he has produced a number of commanding performances this season for the Development Squad. Quick across the ground, capable of beating an opponent, and with an ever-improving defensive presence, the youngster’s progression has been eye-catching.
He trained with the first team prior to the World Cup break, and with James still recovering from a knee ligament injury, Rankine will hope a strong showing against Peterborough will make its mark on Potter.
The academy graduate came into this season with a senior appearance already under his belt: his impressive outing against Chesterfield in last season’s FA Cup. Hall has added to that under Potter with a strong showing in the Carabao Cup against Man City and a Premier League bow against Newcastle United prior to the World Cup break.
In the first team, Hall has been deployed as a left centre-back and as a wing-back. For the Development Squad this season, he has largely played in his preferred role of central midfield and has looked at home – despite only turning 18 years old in September – with a series of strong showings in Premier League 2 action.
Hall has featured in each of Chelsea’s three EFL Trophy matches thus far and will want to produce another composed performance, especially as he is expected to be included in the senior group that travels out to Abu Dhabi next month for a warm weather training camp.
Signed in the summer from Inter Milan in a deal worth up to £17million, Casadei has caught the eye in his seven outings for the Development Squad. The midfielder blends imposing physicality with a subtle touch and confidence to receive the ball under pressure in his own half.
Casadei has also proved a threat in the final third; he has three goals to his name in Premier League 2 and has also claimed an assist. There have been two red cards – one of which came on his debut, an EFL Trophy defeat to Sutton United – but these were the result of cheap bookings, something that will be ironed out of his game.
“It wasn’t an easy choice to make [leaving Inter], and it wasn’t easy, not even at the beginning, because I didn’t know the language well, and I’m still learning it,” Casadei explained in an interview earlier this month. “But I felt like doing it to get out of my comfort zone: for the moment, I’m having fun, and it’s a super positive experience.”
The winger is undoubtedly the Development Squad’s standout performer this season. Hutchinson arrived from Arsenal in the summer transfer window and was expected to leave on loan. However, a switch to Reading didn’t come to fruition, and he instead remained with Robinson’s squad.
That has been to Chelsea’s benefit as the 19-year-old has proved himself a level above Premier League 2. He has five goals and four assists in eleven matches in the competition, while in the EFL Trophy, Hutchinson scored and created two goals in the 3-2 victory over L…