The FA Cup resumes Saturday afternoon, and Chelsea will welcome London neighbors Brentford once again to Stamford Bridge.
These two teams have faced each other in the FA Cup before back in 2013. Back then, the first meeting took place at Griffin Park where a rather lacklustre Chelsea performance saw Brentford earn a home draw, before bowing out of the competition in the replay at Stamford Bridge by the score of 4-0.
It feels slightly different this time around. In 2013, Brentford were in League One and really had very little to lose against a Chelsea team that was still finding their feet under interim manager Rafa Benitez.
Going into this match, Brentford are comfortably sitting mid-table in the Championship, though having finished in the top-half of the Championship in the last two seasons, supporters of the Bees’ might find this season slightly disappointing.
The opposite is true for Chelsea supporters, who are thoroughly enjoying the Blues’ form at the moment. Two straight victories after meeting defeat against Tottenham Hotspur gives the Blues nine wins from their last 10 matches and have made Stamford Bridge a fortress once again, with the loss to Liverpool back in September the only black mark on an otherwise spotless record.
The Bees will, however, be bringing returning with a familiar face. Josh McEachren will make his return to Stamford Bridge to face the club that gave him his debut in the Champions League at age 17.
Despite limited starts, McEachran has performed well this season for the Bees, with 3 assists in 9 starts in the league. His lack of starts isn’t for lack of ability, but rather the fact that he spent most of the 2015-2016 season on the sideline, having twice broken his foot.
The real question for Brentford may very well be who scores their goals. Leading goal scorer Scott Hogan has been linked with a move to West Ham before the end of the transfer window and his 14 goals this season may be left out of the squad.
Chelsea’s concerns are slightly different. The Blues have a big week ahead of them in the Premier League with a trip to Anfield on Tuesday night and a visit from Arsenal at lunch time next Saturday.
Antonio Conte has not given any indication of who might feature in the starting 11 for Chelsea, but it’s likely that a few of the regular first team players may be left out in preparation for those upcoming fixtures.
One player who is included in the squad but who’s Chelsea future is a bit murky in this window is Branislav Ivanovic. Conte confirmed that the Serbian is in the squad, despite reports that an offer has been received from Zenit St. Petersburg for his services.
Ivanovic has seen limited playing time since the switch to a back three, and it may very well be that Saturday could be his last match in the blue shirt of Chelsea.
Regardless, Conte will be expecting his side to perform and advance in this competition, regardless of who’s names are on the team sheet.