Tomorrow lunchtime see’s our Chelsea travel up to the north west of England for the away F.A Cup tie with Preston North End at Deepdale. We’ve sold out our allocation of 6,000 for our first visit up there in 29 years, a game where our 1-0 loss was tragically overshadowed by the death of Chelsea fan Gary Lee.

Last round we beat Watford 5-0, with Daniel Sturridge registering his first two goals for us. Lamps and Malouda also scored, with the other being an own goal from Eustace. Lampard (2) and Malouda scored three between them in our only match since then, last weeks 7-2 drubbing of Sunderland, that day they were joined on the scoresheet by Anelka (also grabbed a brace), Ashley Cole and Ballack.

Ancelotti has decided to rob us of any speculation over his teamsheet, having come out and announced it already. Hilario will be between the sticks, Zhirkov, JT, Alex and Ferreira will be the defensive quartet. Belletti keeps the holding midfield position he was given for the Sunderland and Watford games, Lampard and Ballack are in the middle of the diamond and Deco returns and will be at the tip. Anelka and Sturridge will lead the attack.

Carlo announced that Ashley Cole has been left out due to minor injury but should be back for Birmingham, Malouda and Joey Cole have both been rested, presumably both will be on the bench. Hopefully Kakuta, Matic and Borini will also be waiting in the wings, all three came on as subs against Watford.

Lampard has scored five goals in the last six matches, and with eleven for the season he is back on track to score twenty goals, which would be enough to see him go joint third all time with legends Osgood and Bentley on 150. Surely you wouldn’t bet against him grabbing a goal tomorrow. A brace tomorrow would see Lamps equal Ossie on F.A Cup goals for Chelsea (19).

The Lilywhites currently lie 17th in The Championship, six points above safety with a game in hand, alternatively they are nine points off the play off spots with a game in hand. Alan Irvine had been the man in charge last season, a late league push which included a 6-0 win over Cardiff, and PNE winning on the last day and Cardiff losing saw them scrape the play offs ahead of the Bluebirds, both had the same points and Goal Difference but Preston had scored one more goal, but yet again they failed to secure top flight status, losing to Sheffield United in the semi finals. After two years at the club Irvine was sacked at the end of December and ex Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson replaced him.

Preston’s last match was Darren Ferguson’s first in charge, a 4-2 defeat away to Bristol City, that was their third league loss in a row, albeit all of which occurring away from home. Their passage into the Fourth Round was booked courtesy of a 7-0 drubbing of Colchester, who are currently fourth in League One. Then again, that was a Colchester side who followed one thrashing with another, a humiliating 5-0 home defeat against Norwich last week.

Preston have won the F.A Cup twice, in 1889 and 1938, they have been runners up five times, one of which being 1922 when they lost to Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge. The 1888/89 season was Preston’s most successful to date, as they also won the inaugural season of the Football League, therefore becoming the first team to do the double. The next season the regained the league title, but much like us 116 years later, they haven’t won the league since their back to back victories.

Chris Brown is Preston’s top scorer on nine goals in all competitions, with Jon Parkin one behind and ex Scouser Neil Mellor one behind that. Preston defender Sean St Ledger played against Anelka and Malouda (an 88th minute sub) in that now infamous World Cup play off match where Henry exposed himself as despicable cheat.

The last time we played Preston was at home in an F.A Cup match in 2002, when they were managed by David Moyes. After going down to an early Cresswell goal, Eidur and Jimmy score one apiece to put us 2-1 up after 26 minutes, and Forssell scored late on to seal the win in a match that Preston fans felt they could’ve earnt a draw in. Our only other F.A Cup encounter against each other was back in 1969, a goalless draw at Deepdale saw the replay at Stamford Bridge, we were two nil up but an electrical fire caused a blackout with 16 minutes to go, the match was replayed again and we won 2-1.

Mike Dean is the ref tomorrow, he was the one that got Lampard to rub it in West Ham fans faces just before Christmas by making him score his penalty three times before finally deciding one was allowed to count, that game saw seven bookings. He also officiated the 2-1 away win to Stoke back in September, booking Kalou for blocking a throw-in with his head, despite the fact he was standing the required two yards away, six players were booked that day. He was also in charge of last seasons away F.A Cup win at Watford, as well as Pompey and Arsenal at home, West Ham and Spurs away.

For each of the last five years, Preston have bowed out this competition at Deepdale to Premier League opposition, let’s hope that run continues. If the match goes to a replay, it’ll occur on Tues or Weds February 2nd/3rd and the Hull City fixture will be moved. The Fergusons look to be teaming up to pile misery on Ancelotti , a Man United win in the league against Hull would put them two points ahead of us, albeit having played two more matches.

Predicted Score:
Sturridge, Belletti and a Lampard penalty.

The match is a 12.45 Kick Off and was moved for television.

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