With AVB’s imminent appearance in the Financial Times for best ever hourly rate, Chelsea travel to Birmingham with a new tutor hoping to re-school them in the ways of winning.

Birmingham’s performance at the Bridge three weeks ago was worthy of a victory and if Nathan Redmond hadn’t been so wasteful of a last minute chance, they would be facing Leicester in the quarter finals. However since visiting the Bridge, Birmingham haven’t managed a victory in three games and threw away a two goal lead at home to Derby this weekend. To add to this, Chris Hughton will be without several senior players due to injuries and cup ties. Stephen Carr, Steven Caldwell, David Murphy and Keith Fahey have all been declared unfit and Curtis Davies is only rated 50/50 after an illness. Andros Townsend and Erik Huseklepp are also both cup tied which potentially means five youth players could be filling the bench.

Roberto di Matteo will take charge of a Chelsea side that has only managed one win in seven and appears in freefall. With Arsenal starting to pull together for the run-in, big performances are not just needed, but demanded. The importance of finishing 4th, as many would agree, in undeniable and a confident win in the FA Cup could hopefully direct us onto a path of form. Di Matteo has expressed his passion for the club in interviews since AVB’s sacking and with John Terry the only confirmed absence, he will have a nearly full strength side to pick from.

Although, one thought has stuck with me since the announcement of di Matteo taking charge. Being hired by AVB and working closely with him, surely di Matteo must hold the same footballing philosophies as him? Whether fans agree with the sacking or not, all must agree that some decisions made in terms of substitutions and tactics were baffling and there’s a very realistic chance that these decisions could continue. Then again, tactics and substitutions can be completely underlined by poor manager-player relationships. Di Matteo appears to have a more subtle and open approach and maybe a change of management style could change our fortunes.

With a nearly full strength squad, we should progress past an injury hit Birmingham side. The travelling blues will no doubt show the team full support and if we get the basics right and turn out a solid team performance, recovering something from this season is not out of the question. Schoolyard passion could be vital to us restoring some pride to this season, winning the FA Cup is never to shabby.

Lewis Durkin

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