Chelsea’s win over Manchester United in midweek means that their quadruple attempt remains alive with Birmingham the next hurdle in the FA Cup. Jose Mourinho knows just how hard it will be to win all four competitions and despite his need to rest players this Sunday, he will not be taking the visitors lightly.
Whilst Steve Bruce’s Birmingham have not replicated their form of last season- in part due to the absence of Chelsea loanee Mikael Forssell – they are no pushover and will not come to Stamford Bridge expecting to be eliminated from the competition. A draw would no doubt suit the visitors and they will look to contain Chelsea to earn a replay.
Containment of the Blues has become a near impossible task of late however and Bruce will not be helped by Mourinho’s refusal to leave his goal scorers out of any line up. Scunthorpe will have been surprised to face the likes of Didier Drogba and Eidur Gudjohnsen in the third round and although Mourinho is likely to start with his favoured lone striker formation, Birmingham will have to deal with Arjen Robben and Damian Duff for much of the game.
Much will depend once again on the time of the first goal, with Chelsea being the likely scorers. Emile Heskey and Clinton Morrison will cause Chelsea more anxiety at one end of the field should Matthew Upson and Mario Melchiot keep them out at the other. Should Chelsea once again score early then it may well be another long afternoon for a visiting side at the Bridge.
Birmingham’ s injury problems will not help their plans for this game. Indeed, manager Bruce joked in midweek that he would be going to Chelsea with fourteen players. Kenny Cunningham and new signing Salif Diao miss out through injury and influential midfielder David Dunn is another absentee having sustained a season-ending hamstring injury. Stan Laziridis and Muzzy Izzet’s injuries further limit Bruce’s midfield options.
Mourinho has the continued absence of both Ricardo Carvalho and Scott Parker to consider when selecting his side. Gudjohnsen may start in attack with Drogba having played the leading role at Old Trafford on Wednesday. The manager will use the likes of Glen Johnson and Jiri Jarosik to give some of his regulars a well-earned rest.
Given Chelsea’s recent form it is hard to foresee anything other than London’s version of the Blues remaining in the draw come Monday. Birmingham’s injury-hit side will fight harder than Portsmouth- Chelsea’s last visitors – managed, though another energy conserving victory is the likelihood for the home side. Two early goals will allow Mourinho to hit the cruise control button and leave his men to quietly snuff out the Birmingham resistance.