A bad end to February will hopefully be put behind us tomorrow as we aim to make it into the semi final of the F.A Cup for the fourth time in five years, earning a trip to whats becoming our second home, Wembley Stadium. Stoke are the visitors this time for the 4.00 kick off, moved for television.
With news that Bosingwa will miss the rest of the season, and rumours that Essien might be joining him and Ashley Cole in doing so, let’s hope that the team come through unscathed tomorrow. Petr Cech is still out, Riccy Carvalho is a doubt and Ballack and Belletti are both serving suspensions for their sending offs in last weeks hiccup against Man City.
Unlike in previous rounds, Ancelotti is yet to name his side for tomorrows clash. Hilario will be expected to start in goal, whilst Zhirkov is back from injury and hoping to replace Malouda at left back. Alex wa an unused sub last week and and can provide back up should Riccy be out, alternatively Ferreira could slot in at right back and Ivanovic could partner JT at centre back. Deco also returns, and with the aforementioned suspension of Ballack, has a strong chance of starting the match, as do Kalou and Joey Cole.
Daniel Sturridge has four goals in the competition so far and has scored in all three rounds. No other player has scored more then one for us in the competition this season. Sturridge has started the last three rounds, but now we’re playing Premier League opposition may be overlooked in favour of the more experienced partnership of Drogba and Anelka.
If John Terry does play, then he equals Dennis Wise on 445 appearances for Chelsea, making him our joint fifth highest appearance maker.
Stoke have overcome some stern challenges in the F.A Cup so far and their passage to this round has arguably been much harder then ours. Last round they took Man City to a replay and beat them 3-1 in extra time, the round previous they beat Arsenal by the same scoreline, and the round before, they also won the third round by that score, this time against York City. Ryan Shawcross is suspended for his challenge on Ramsey, and Higginbotham and Etherington are both doubts. Robert Huth will be welcomed back to Stamford Bridge.
Their team last week saw Sorenson in goal, Huth at left back and Wilkinson right back, Faye and Shawcross in the middle of defence, Delap, Whelan, Whitbread and Pugh in midfield and Fuller and Sidbe up front.
Our last encounter was settled deep into stoppage time when Florent Malouda popped up with the winner at the Brittania Stadium, we again face The Potters at home on a Sunday at 4pm at the end of next month. The last time we met at the Bridge was the memorable match where we trailed 1-0 to Rory Delap’s goal, in the 88th minute Belletti headed an equaliser and Lampard scored a stoppage time winner. Our last F.A Cup meeting was in 2003, when we won 2-0 away with goals from Hasselbaink and Gronkjaer. Stoke beat us 2-1 in the 1972 League Cup Final.
The man in the middle is Mark Atkinson, our only other two matches he has officiated this season were the home wins over Liverpool (2y) and Man United (6y).
Predicted Team: Hilario, Zhirkov, Terry, Alex, Ivanovic, Mikel, Malouda, Lampard, Deco, Anelka, Sturridge