Rob Edwards says Forest Green Rovers’ game against Chelsea U21 on Tuesday evening is an opportunity for some of the squad’s fringe players to get some minutes.
Rovers are flying at the top of League Two, and moved onto 40 points at the weekend with a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers.
With the Nailsworth club out of both the FA and Carabao Cups, any distractions from a title push would now come in the Papa John’s Trophy, where they begin the knockout stage against a young Chelsea side.
Edwards recognises the technical quality of the Blues and knows his side will face a tough test.
He said: “They’ve got some really good footballers and some talented players. They want the ball, so they’ll try and press high, win the ball back quickly and try and dominate the game with the ball.
“It’s nothing different to what you’d expect from a Chelsea side. It’ll be a really good game, a really challenging one and one that should be really enjoyable.”
Forest Green progressed from Southern Group D with six points, while their opponents were in the same group as Cheltenham Town, defeating the Robins on penalties on the way to finishing second in Southern Group E.
Edwards says the game with Chelsea will give him a chance to rotate the squad: ““There’ll be opportunities for some of our other players to play.
“Last time out in this competition against Walsall, we performed really well. We’ll play the way we always play as we want to try and win in every competition we’re in.”
The likes of Harvey Bunker and Taylor Allen started in that game against the Saddlers, and Edwards may give the youngsters another chance at The New Lawn on Tuesday.
“We have been doing well but everyone’s desperate to play, and unfortunately I can’t pick 22 players every game.
“Whenever anyone’s been called upon, they’ve been absolutely brilliant. You need that in any squad if you want to be successful.”
Chelsea’s first team sit top of the Premier League, and they’re famed for their academy’s success, the latest cohort of which will be in action in Gloucestershire once again this week.
Edwards said: “There are certainly similarities to the first team in terms of the shape, but I’m not going to pretend I know what Thomas Tuchel’s working on in training!
“They’ve got so many top players, so it’ll be a great game for us.”
22-year-old Opi Edwards also knows the importance of rotation and has full faith in the manager.
He said: “Whatever team he [Rob Edwards] puts out, he trusts that team to win and get the job done. We’ve got a fit squad and the competition is high. He [Edwards] backs his players.”
Edwards also emphasised the atmosphere around the training ground, with the players pushing each other on:
“We go into every game wanting to win. Everyone is raring to go and ready to play, we’re all excited for this one.
“Training’s always competitive and everyone’s fighting for their spot. With the team doing so well, everyone wants to do well in training and we’re taking that into the games.”
The second-round tie on Tuesday, 30 November kicks off at 7pm.