Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kickoff: noon GMT, 7 a.m. ET, 4 a.m. PT
They still have the Europa League to play for, but in terms of their domestic prospects Chelsea are left with nothing but the FA Cup. Standing between them and progressing in the competition this year is Brentford, who visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday for their fourth-round replay.
The Blues have been the dominant force in the FA Cup since it returned to Wembley Stadium in 2007 following the famous venue's redevelopment. Indeed, Chelsea was the last club to lift the FA Cup at the old Wembley in 2000 and the first at the new venue seven years later.
Since then they have lifted it a further three times in 2009, 2010 and 2012. They evidently have a habit of making history in the FA Cup, and with it being the FA’s 150th anniversary this season, you wouldn’t bet against them doing it again.
Brentford were excellent in their first encounter with the Blues, using home advantage well to their favour. Griffin Park is an intimate venue and with the crowd behind them, Uwe Rosler’s side put in a fine display—at times even dominating proceedings against the European champions.
Since then, their form has been patchy, though. The Bees have picked up just four points in the league from a possible nine and slipped to sixth in the table as they chase promotion.
Star man Harry Forrester’s form has dropped from his usual high standards too, with just one goal to his name in that time.
Chelsea’s midweek excursion to the Czech Republic for their Europa League clash with Sparta Prague could prove a saving grace for the Bees, however. Chelsea will have little time to prepare for Sunday’s game and Rafa Benitez may be forced to play as the nucleus of Thursday's team on Sunday as the injuries mount.
David Luiz remained in London midweek, while John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses were also absent after winning the Africa Cup of Nations. Demba Ba is also cup-tied for the Europa League and recovering from a broken nose.
Expect Ba and Luiz to be in the lineup on Sunday, probably at the expense of Fernando Torres and Gary Cahill, depending on how John Terry fared against Prague.
With Luiz stepping in, it could be a good opportunity to rest Branislav Ivanovic, who has made 44 appearances this season not including Thursday’s game, meaning Cesar Azpilicueta should be safe at right-back.
One sub-plot to this outing is the fact that Frank Lampard—on 198 goals for the club—could very well reach 200. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility and would be a true fairytale were he to reach the milestone in front of a home crowd.
Until their recent clash, despite being west London neighbours, the Blues and Bees hadn't faced each other since an FA Cup tie in January 1950. The Blues won 1-0 that day with Jimmy Bowie lobbing goalkeeper Alf Jefferies on 17 minutes to seal victory.
A former Scottish inside forward, Bowie was the last man to score past Brentford for the Blues in over 60 years. Just two seasons later, he was turning out for the club after joining from Fulham in 1952. With Torres now taking on Bowie's mantle in being the last Blues scorer against Brentford, in the very unlikely event history should repeat itself, Bees fans certainly wouldn't turn their nose up at the Spaniard starting matches at Griffin Park in the near future.
You have to go back to just after the Second World War for Brentford’s last visit to Stamford Bridge. In November 1946, Chelsea won 3-2, although a similar score line would mark a moral victory for the Bees this time out.
Prediction: Chelsea 4-0 Brentford
Chelsea: Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Terry, Luiz, Bertrand; Lampard, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Ba
Brentford: Moore; Craig, Dean, Hodson, Bidwell; Forshaw, Douglas, Adeyemi; Trotta, Donaldson, Forrester
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