Pompey v Chelsea under-21s: pre-match talking points

Sylvain Deslandes and Connor Ronan. Picture: Colin Farmery
Sylvain Deslandes and Connor Ronan. Picture: Colin Farmery
Gareth Evans in action against the Hawks.

Pompey’s set-piece expert seeking more success

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Chance for new boys

Chance for new boys to make their mark

Pompey’s two new loan signings are likely to be champing at the bit to make their debuts for the club.

Last week Connor Ronan and Sylvain Deslandes were signed on loan from Wolves until the end of the season.

Due to a blank fixture last weekend, the Molineux pair have had to wait longer that expected to be involved in a Blues match-day.

But they could feature at some point in the Checkatrade Trophy clash against Chelsea under-21s – and they’ll both be desperate to show what they’re capable of.

Ronan is a playmaker who Kenny Jackett hopes will add creativity and goals.

He’s an Ireland under-21 international who has featured in the Championship this season for runaway leaders Wolves.

The biggest compliment of his career to date came in Nuno Espírito Santo’s side’s fourth-round Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City.

Ronan came on as a 73rd-minute substitute and impressed so much in his team’s penalty-shootout defeat that City’s attacking ace Kevin De Bruyne asked to swap shirts with him after the game.

Meanwhile, Deslandes could finally put an end to Pompey’s problem position at left-back.

The Frenchman received rave reviews for his performance in Wolves’ Carabao Cup second-round 2-0 victory at Southampton earlier this season – something that will immediately make him respected by the Fratton faithful.

No Chelsea first teamers – But still a tough test

The Checkatrade Trophy is much-maligned by large sections of Pompey fans.

That’s because they see it as an opportunity for Premier League and Championship clubs to play some of their fringe players – despite their involvement being to develop their under-21 players against first teams.

The side Chelsea fielded in their 4-0 victory at MK Dons in the previous round laid bare why the competition’s format is loathed by many supporters up and down the country.

They utilised several first-team players for the trip to Stadium MK, including Michy Batshuayi – a £33m signing from Marseille in 2016.

With Chelsea playing Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal on Wednesday night, they’ll have no regular first-teamers featuring at Fratton Park.

However, the Stamford Bridge outfit still ooze quality.

Centre-back Ethan Ampadu is just 17 but has played in Antonio Conte’s first team this term and is a full Wales international.

Callum Hudson-Odoi could also be a handful for the Blues defence, having won the under-17 World Cup with England during the summer.

Meanwhile, versatile talent Reece James has a strong pedigree, having been named in the team of the tournament following the Young Lions’ success in the Toulon Tournament in June.

A blessing in disguise?

No doubt, Pompey fans were looking forward to a trip to Stamford Bridge when the draw was first made.

The third-round tie was originally due to take place in the capital, only for the clash to be switched to Fratton Park because Chelsea’s Carabao Cup commitments.

Playing at a Premier League ground again would have been relished by Kenny Jackett’s men – yet they won’t be complaining too much about the game being switched to the south coast.

Pompey haven’t been defeated on home soil since the end of October.

After that smash-and-grab 1-0 loss to Bradford, they have won their past six games on their own patch and have made Fratton Park a fortress again.

Granted, there won’t be the same support experienced in league games due to fans’ continued Checkatrade Trophy boycott.

But home surroundings will provide an automatic confidence boost for the Blues.

Jackett’s men know they can grind out results – particularly at Fratton Park – and it could prove to be a blessing in disguise.