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Nottingham Forest vs Chelsea live on Sky Sports: Callum Hudson-Odoi makes up for lost time at the City Ground | Football news

Of the myriad reasons why relegation would be unthinkable for Nottingham Forest, the likelihood of a talent sale tops the list.

The last time they were relegated, there was a 23-year exodus before the club returned to the top division of English football.

Regulars on Trentside will cite how Morgan Gibbs-White has lit up the City Ground this season. Matz Sels brought long-awaited safety in goal to instill confidence in a thriving defensive partnership in Willy Boly and Murillo.

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And yet perhaps the individual who could suffer the most from being sent down to the Championship is a player facing his former club this weekend, Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Forest host Chelsea on Saturday Night Football knowing that their destiny is in their own hands. They will secure their Premier League status for a third season since promotion if they beat Luton’s result at West Ham and don’t allow Burnley to get more than a point ahead of them when they visit Tottenham earlier in the week of the day.

Callum Hudson-Odoi celebrates scoring Nottingham Forest's third
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His seven Premier League goals at Forest have already surpassed his four during his entire time at Chelsea

Nuno Espirito Santo has the core of a good team and Hudson-Odoi is the most unheralded of his group.

Brennan Johnson’s sale to Tottenham last summer for £47.5m was at the fore in a trial that ended with Forest being awarded four points for exceeding the losses allowed under peak profitability and sustainability (PSR) rules for the period until the end of the 2022-23 season.

But the arrival of Hudson-Odoi, to effectively help fill the attacking void left by Johnson, has proved one of the shrewdest pieces of business by any club this campaign.

Hudson-Odoi is back to enjoying his football with a defined role of inverted winger
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Hudson-Odoi is back to enjoying his football with a defined role of inverted winger

Still only 23, Hudson-Odoi cost Forest in the region of £3m, with a potential further £2m in add-ons.

It seemed like a bargain at the time for a player who was on the radar of the big clubs just a few years ago. His performances since the start of the year have only strengthened that argument.

His brace in last Saturday’s 3-1 win at Sheffield United took him to six goals since December 23, having started 14 games in that time. Before Steve Cooper was sacked five days before Christmas, Hudson-Odoi had made just four starts.

Callum Hudson-Odoi excelled in 2024
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Hudson-Odoi thrived under Nuno Espirito Santo

He has now played 1,332 minutes, compared to just 348 before that date. Espirito Santo’s faith is being rewarded – and the player is eager to make up for lost time.

The former Chelsea winger plies his trade for Forest, playing as an inverted left winger.

His brace in South Yorkshire, where he twice cut inside and curled into the far corner, took him to seven goals for the season, but he wants to deliver more.

Hudson-Odoi's seven goals this season came despite an xG of 2.6 (overperformed by 4.4) – only five players have exceeded their xG this season
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Hudson-Odoi’s seven goals this season came despite an xG of 2.6 (overperformed by 4.4) – only five players have exceeded their xG this season

“I want to help the team and get more goals and assists. I hope there will be more to come,” he said. “When I hit the post, I was thinking ‘is it going to go in or not?’ The more you shoot, the more likely it is to go in.”

Ryan Yates speaking to Sky Sports at Hudson-Odoi

“He’s got so much ability it’s ridiculous. He’s pushing every day to get his numbers up. He was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch (against Sheff Utd). I’m really pleased for him.”

Chelsea retain a sell-on clause as part of the deal, but the stage is set this weekend for the winger to deliver another performance.

“We still have two games to go and we’re relieved,” added Hudson-Odoi. “It’s nice to get the goals, but it was more important that I helped the team.

Nottingham Forest's Callum Hudson-Odoi (left) celebrates after scoring the equaliser
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Hudson-Odoi struck in either half at Bramall Lane

“We know where we are in the table and we want to get out of that position. We hope to stay safe. The fans have been fantastic and we need their support in the last two games.”

He ruptured his Achilles tendon in April 2019, bringing a very promising season at Stamford Bridge to a premature end. Playing a position built around speed, he feared he would never play again.

The injury occurred just as he had established himself in Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side as well as the senior England team. It would force him to miss the Europa League final win over Arsenal as well as that summer’s Nations League with the Three Lions.

Callum Hudson-Odoi was forced into action at half-time on Monday night
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An Achilles injury in April 2019 derailed his career

Bayern Munich rejected a £35m bid in 2020, but increased competition in an overflowing squad, alongside his injury struggles, meant his Chelsea career never really took off.

A loan move to Bayer Leverkusen at the end of August 2022 was seen as a change that suited all parties, but one goal and one assist in 20 appearances for the Bundesliga side left him facing an uncertain future.

He started all six of Leverkusen’s Champions League group stage matches, but his minutes dwindled as he fell further down the pecking order under Xabi Alonso.

08 October 2022, North Rhine-Westphalia, Leverkusen: Soccer: Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen - FC Schalke 04, Matchday 9, BayArena.  Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso (l) instructs Callum Hudson-Odoi.
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Hudson-Odoi struggled to make an impact at Leverkusen

“We know how Callum can play that position very well between the lines,” Alonso said in November 2022. “He has a good first contact and can attack the last line, he can be aggressive, but what happens after that is the most important thing. I have to work on it.”

At Forest, a consistent run of games in Espirito Santo’s starting XI allowed him to become more ruthless in the area Alonso referred to.

Hudson-Odoi is set to make his 100th Premier League appearance on Saturday; there would be no better way to mark his century than by pulling Forest to safety against the side that let him go.

Nottingham Forest vs Chelsea
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Watch Forest vs Chelsea live on Sky Sports Premier League Saturday; start at 17.30

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