For the first match of the new decade, the Blues will face a familiar foe at the Bridge. Watford comes to visit the Bridge for the first time since their relegation from the top flight in 2007. However, Chelsea visited Vicarage Road in the FA Cup Fifth Round, with Chelsea winning via Nicolas Anelka’s late hat-trick.
This season, Anelka will once again be at the center of the Chelsea attack as leading scorer Didier Drogba has departed for Angola. Chelsea will also be missing Salomon Kalou and John Mikel Obi due to the African Cup of Nations, while Michael Essien remains injured. Carlo Ancelotti is also likely to rest a few key regulars, meaning that the selections of Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard, and John Terry are not guaranteed. Despite some absentees, the squad will be looking to keep momentum going after the 2-1 win over Fulham on Monday.
Watford have also had their share of problems this season, both on and off the field. On the field, Watford sit 13th in the Championship and have only won one match in their last seven. The Hornets have also not won away from home since Oct. 17 when they defeated Middlesbrough 1-0. The club has also had their share of boardroom issues, which nearly caused them to go into administration almost three weeks ago. With those issues temporarily solved, the club will be looking for a famous victory in the Cup.
Watford’s two leading scorers are Tom Cleverley, who is on loan from Manchester United and Danny Graham. Fellow loanee Henri Lansbury from Arsenal has also seen significant time in the first team as well. USA international Jay DeMerit returned from a long-term injury and will feature at the back.
The official for the match will be Kevin Friend from Leicestershire. He has given 63 yellow cards and 3 red cards in 17 matches. The majority of his matches have been in the lower leagues, though he has officiated Chelsea once this season. He was the substitute official at Villa Park for our first loss of the season.