After the awful performance at Everton last Saturday, Chelsea welcome Championship side Birmingham to the Bridge for the FA Cup 5th round.
AVB has promised a major improvement in focus and quality after last week’s lethargic display but also revealed the midweek Champions League tie Vs Napoli will effect team selection. However, media reports of training ground visits from Abramovich will surely mean a strong side is to be fielded, the FA Cup must now be a priority and going out to a Championship side would be inexcusable.
With Torres’s goal drought continuing and Drogba and Kalou not expected to feature since returning from the African Cup of Nations, tomorrow could be an ideal chance for Lukaku to showcase his talent in leading the frontline.
Ashley Cole is facing a late fitness test after an injury picked up at Everton but Ramires is expected to return after 3 weeks out. After drab and uninspiring midfield displays of late, his energy and pace will be a refreshing change.
Chris Hughton’s side come to the Bridge on the back of good recent form. Emphatic wins away at Leeds and Millwall and draws against fellow promotion contenders Hull and Southampton sees them lying 5th in the Championship table. Their cup performances have also been impressive, beating Wolves in the 3rd round and narrowly missing out on qualifying from their Europa League group.
However, any cup upset hopes may have been damaged after pivotal players Marlon King and Nikola Zigic were both declared unfit to face Chelsea. Adam Rooney is expected to be handed the chance to spearhead the attack but his lack of goals this season could be a cause of concern. Midfielder Guirane N’Daw is expected to miss out with a hamstring problem.
Birmingham’s last 3 visits to the Bridge has seen them concede 3 goals and a repeat of this should surely see Chelsea through. A comfortable win is predicted on paper but this is the FA Cup and we are Chelsea, any glimmers of last week’s dire display will be seized upon by a Birmingham side that has nothing to lose. A strong Chelsea side should be capable of progressing even with one eye on Napoli, my prediction; 2-0.