Chelsea will be looking to bounce back from their Champions League defeat in midweek when they face Manchester City on Sunday in the FA Cup. Having lost narrowly in the first leg of their tie against PSG, this is a huge follow up for the champions. Can the team make a big statement with a victory, or will their season get even worse here?
Nemanja Matic returns after serving a suspension in midweek, and he is likely to move back into the team alongside John Obi Mikel. John Terry is a doubt for this clash, which could lead to Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic to continue their makeshift centre half partnership. Guus Hiddink will be hoping his captain can return for this game, one which could well define their season.
While this year was seen as a write off, there are still two competitions that the Blues could win. While it’s hard to make a case for them after the season they’ve had, but the quality is certainly there. They can get the edge in these big games, it’s just a question of the team refocusing after a huge job in Paris on Tuesday night.
Luckily for them they should receive a boost for this game, with Manchester City facing Champions League action of their own. They head to face Dynamo Kiev, runners up to Chelsea in the group stage. They play in Ukraine on Wednesday, and the team is expected to travel out on Tuesday. Then, they return to play Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday in the Capital One Cup final.
The FA Cup is likely to drop down the list of priorities for City, with Champions League progress and the League Cup on the line. That should see a rotated side take the field in this one, with many of the top stars left to rest ahead of a crucial few days for Manuel Pellegrini and his men. Could that give Chelsea a slight edge?
They’d be a lot more confident if they see a team sheet lacking City’s biggest threats. That would really boost belief in the cup run, something the Blues really need. If they surrender their places in the cups early, then the season is effectively over. That leaves Hiddink as a bit of a lame duck in the dugout, with nothing to push for this season, and no future at the club towards which to build anything.
A cup run is the only thing keeping Chelsea fans remotely on board following the awful collapse they’ve seen this term, and the side has to guarantee that it continues. A defeat to City in unthinkable, especially if it’s against a weakened side. Hiddink’s big game record at the club is good, and that should continue against a team who are falling further and further off the pace in the title race.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1