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.
Brentford manager Uwe Rosler does not believe his side have blown their only chance to beat the FA Cup holders, although admits the opening 30 minutes the replay will be key.
Around 6,000 Brentford fans are expected to make the trip to Stamford Bridge, just three weeks after holding the European champions to a 2-2 draw at Griffin Park.
Only Fernando Torres’ equaliser seven minutes from time saved Chelsea from one of the great FA Cup shocks, but Rosler believes an upset is still on the cards.
“I think first of all there will be a big factor of excitement going to Stamford Bridge,” the former Manchester City forward said.
“I think excitement will take over and they will be very motivated. My players will raise their standards in terms of physical capabilities, hopefully by five to 10 per cent, which is needed to compete.
“Obviously Chelsea will take us more seriously than the first game and I am looking forward to what will be a great test for us, for everybody involved.
“I still believe it is possible. The chances are slimmer but I think it is still possible.
Projected Lineups :
Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole
Marin, Mata, Oscar
Hodson, Craig, Dean, Barron
Forshaw, Douglas, Diagouraga
Forrester, Donaldson, Trotta
Key Stats :
- Frank Lampard has been involved in 23 goals (scoring 14 and assisting nine) in his last 24 appearances in the FA Cup.
- Chelsea will have played its west London neighbors Fulham, QPR and Brentford in the same season for the first time ever following the tie at Griffin Park.
- The Blues are unbeaten in four matches in all competitions against Brentford, winning three and drawing once.
- In just nine FA Cup games for Chelsea, Juan Mata (pictured) has played a part in 10 goals, scoring four and assisting six.
- Brentford has only reached the fifth round of the FA Cup on six occasions since World War II.
- Before last month’s clash, its only previous FA Cup meeting came in 1950. Chelsea won 1-0.
- The Bees have won just one of their last six games
It’s a tough ask for Brentford to pull off the upset, but they are certainly motivated and if Chelsea don’t come out firing on all cylinders, we could be in trouble. I don’t see us dropping out of the competition, so 2-0 Chelsea.
What do you think? Will Brentford upset FA Cup giants Chelsea?