Chelsea go into their second cup tie of the week looking for a better performance—and result—than their Capital One Cup tie with Swansea City produced. They make the short trip across West London to Brentford's Griffin Park, a ground famous for having a pub on each corner, and a club whose claim to fame is that Rod Stewart once had a trial there.
This FA Cup fourth-round match is the first competitive one between the two sides for 63 years and also marks the first time Chelsea have faced all three of their geographically closest rivals, QPR, Fulham and Brentford, in the same season.
After a disappointing semifinal second leg against Swansea City in midweek, the Blues will be looking to beat the Bees to avoid their season sliding even further off the rails. The FA Cup now represents the best chance of silverware for the reigning European champions, and to exit the competition against a club who have not played above the third tier of English football since 1993 would be nothing short of disastrous.
Chelsea are suffering a number of squad issues at the moment. Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are representing Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations, while Eden Hazard is waiting to find out the length of his ban following his sending-off against Swansea for what is now known as "Ballboygate."
David Luiz has a calf injury, and John Terry is still doubtful as he continues his recovery from a knee injury sustained in November. This leaves the Blues with very few options across the park, but they can make the best of the situation by starting this 11.
Despite not putting on his best performance against Swansea, Demba Ba should still be given the nod ahead of Fernando Torres. Ba scored two goals in the previous round of the FA Cup when Chelsea recorded a comprehensive 5-1 win against Southampton and will be looking to impress once again.
With Hazard and Moses unavailable, Marko Marin should be called up to start in the three behind Ba, along with Juan Mata and Oscar. Frank Lampard and Ramires should play in the pivot, and if Terry is not available then the back four should remain as Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Although this game is a must-win, Rafa Benitez could use the fact that his squad is depleted to try out different formations.
A 4-3-2-1 would allow Cole and Azpilicueta to stay more defensive, whilst Ba would still have the support of Mata and Oscar up front.
Whatever he decides to do, Benitez must realise that anything less than a win will leave him in a position where only winning the Europa League will prevent 2012/13 becoming Chelsea's least successful season in 10 years.
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