Olivier Giroud

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Conte admits selection headache before wild 12-day run

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Antonio Conte has a selection headache after Willian scored twice and both Olivier Giroud and Pedro also found the back of the net in an FA Cup thrashing of Hull City on Friday.

[ MORE: American debuts for Chelsea ]

Given the relative struggles of the rest of the team in recent weeks — aside from a 3-0 win against lowly West Brom — that has Conte assessing who’s best suited for a brutal 12-day stretch which sees Chelsea play Barcelona, Manchester United, and Manchester City.

Alvaro Morata is in a prolonged slump, and Giroud has put in a couple of fine performances. Willian has been one of Chelsea’s best players for some time, but with Pedro and Eden Hazard also on song, well, there are a lot of cooks for this particular stew.

From ChelseaFC.com:

‘I’m very happy because before the game against Barcelona I go to my house with many doubts in my mind about what is the best starting XI for the game. Now we must take the right time to make the best decision.

‘The last two wins were very important for our confidence and to prepare in the right way for Barcelona. It’s a massive game. We must be confident to prepare for it in the right way. The game starts at 0-0, and then we have to try to move it in the right direction.

The four-goal Friday first half allowed Conte to pull off Pedro at half and Cesc Fabregas after 62 minutes — handing a senior debut to U.S. prospect Kyle Scott — and that will allay plenty of exhaustion fears.

Willian and Hazard should be given against Barcelona, and Pedro also seems fit for the three men behind the big striker (especially considering his limited Friday duty). In terms of form, Giroud’s the guy. But Morata was brought here for nights like this.

American debuts, Willian stars, Chelsea wins

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Willian made a statement within 120 seconds of kickoff on Friday, and Chelsea repeated it often during a four-goal first half: Hull City was not getting near the FA Cup quarterfinals.

The Brazilian scored twice, while goals also came for Olivier Giroud and Pedro in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over the Tigers.

[ MORE: West Brom players investigated in Spain ]

Hull’s Harry Wilson, on loan from Liverpool, won a penalty kick in the 49th minute off a hasty Cesc Fabregas tackle, and David Meyler was stopped by Wily Caballero to preserve the clean sheet.

American U-20 center midfielder Kyle Scott made his full Chelsea debut in the match, subbing on for Fabregas in the 62nd minute and joining Matt Miazga and Roy Wegerle as U.S. players to don the blue of Chelsea.

Scott entered the game with 60 appearances for Chelsea between the U-18 and U-23 levels, with four goals and seven assists.

The Blues got a pair from Willian, including a 2nd minute opener off a poor Hull idea, as they rolled past the Tigers at Stamford Bridge.

Willian dinged the far post with an 89th minute effort, denied of the hat trick.

Here’s the opener:

LIVE, FA Cup: Chelsea, Leicester kick off Round 5

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The final 16 of the FA Cup gets underway Friday afternoon, with Chelsea and Leicester City hosting Championship opposition.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup scores 

New Chelsea signing Emerson makes his club debut as the Blues take on Hull City. According to the BBC, Chelsea has scored 2.9 goals per game in FA Cup matches at Stamford Bridge since 1999, meaning it should be an exciting game for fans. Olivier Giroud also gets the start for the Blues with Alvaro Morata on the bench.

Riyad Mahrez meanwhile makes his return to the Leicester City lineup against Sheffield United after trying to force his way out of the club before the end of the January transfer window.

Mahrez spent ten days away from the club after not being transferred away, but manager Claude Puel has made Mahrez a surprise starter.

Below are the starting lineups for the Premier League sides and be sure to follow along live at the link above. Stay tuned for more coverage after the full-time whistle.

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom: Giroud, Hazard link downs Baggies

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  • Eden Hazard brace earns Chelsea the win
  • Giroud bags assist on full debut
  • Blues jump back into Champions League place

Olivier Giroud was brought in to score goals, but on his full Chelsea debut it was his strong hold-up play that earned the Blues all three points.

The Frenchman started and set up Eden Hazard for the opening goal after a half-hour, warding off a defender and letting his new teammate slice through the back line to score as Chelsea topped West Brom at Stamford Bridge 3-0.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

West Brom was forced into an early change as January signing Daniel Sturridge limped off injured after just four minutes following, a familiar sight for Premier League fans. On came Jay Rodriguez, who had the best chance of the first half-hour after Victor Moses accidentally played him through, but he fired wide one-on-one with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The opening 30 minutes saw Chelsea enjoy decent control but West Brom poked and prodded. However the Blues opened the scoring through Hazard, who took a strong layoff from Olivier Giroud on a one-two play, leaving the Belgian clean through after the nifty touch.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

After halftime, the game ground to a halt, and with an hour gone Antonio Conte withdrew Giroud in favor of Alvaro Morata who returned from his injury layoff. The change sparked the Blues, and they scored just three minutes later. Victor Moses found Cesc Fabregas at the top of the box, and the Spaniard looked to play the ball back to Moses, and while his rabona pass clipped a defender, it still found Moses streaking on net and the Nigerian finished cooly for a 2-0 lead.

With the Blues firmly in control, they tacked on a third with 20 minutes to go. A moment of brilliance saw Hazard cut inside to beat Jonny Evans, and fired on net, crashing the shot home inside the near post for a 3-0 lead and the game decided.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The win gets Chelsea back to winning ways after a small two-game losing streak in Premier League play, pushing them above Tottenham into fourth position and a single point back of Liverpool in third. For West Brom, it’s their third straight defeat in league play and leaves them bottom of the table, without a win since defeating Brighton 2-0 on January 13.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion

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Chelsea host West Bromwich Albion on Monday at Stamford Bridge (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the struggling Blues aiming to get back on track against the Premier League’s bottom team.

Antonio Conte is under pressure after back-to-back defeats to Bournemouth and Watford by three-goal margins, while Alan Pardew’s Baggies are seven points from safety and in a dire situation in their battle against relegation.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

In team news Chelsea start Olivier Giroud up top for the first time.

West Brom have Evans, Gibbs and Krychowiak back after injury.

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