Chelsea kick off their FA Cup campaign on Sunday as they host League One side Scunthorpe. The Blues will be looking for a strong showing in this competition after the horror show that has been this season, while Guus Hiddink would love to end his second spell here the same way as the first. Can he lead his team to an FA Cup triumph, as he did in 2009?
The cup remains Chelsea’s best chance of having any success this season, and it’s also their best chance of making it into Europe. While a high league finish is still possible, it would take an incredible run of form. A cup win would be an easier path, and a much more enjoyable one at that.
Standing in the way of the Blues in the third round is Scunthorpe, who will be hoping to pull off a Bradford-like shock at the Bridge. That early exit last term was embarrassing for the entire team, something they need to avoid this season. Their form this term would have hinted at a fair chance of an upset here, but their win last time out seems to have boosted morale and put them back on a steady footing.
That victory against Palace on Sunday will hopefully be the turning point we’ve been waiting for since August. Everything about the display was fantastic, it was so good that the majority of fans even warmed to John Obi Mikel. That was certainly a special feat. On the back of that win, don’t expect too many chances here, as Hiddink will be aiming to build up momentum, and put together a good run on all fronts.
Building momentum will be key for the Blues, which should mean a pretty settled team, as long as they keep winning. One expected change is Diego Costa, who probably isn’t fit enough to feature here and in the two Premier League games the following week. Loic Remy, who has been attracting attention elsewhere, will likely step in for the Spaniard for this one.
Hiddink has everything to lose here and nothing to gain really. His team are expected to win the match with ease, as they should given that they are the current Premier League champions, but the talk of a recovery won’t come following a win. Many will reserve judgement no matter how good the display is, while a defeat would cause all kinds of panic. A third round cup exit against a third tier team would be a new depth to the crisis that has plagued the team this term.
But, the hosts should have more than enough to make it through here, keeping their FA Cup hopes very much alive. While there’s too much of a gap to make up in the league, the cup is an even playing field, and Hiddink’s men might have what it takes to end the season with some silverware, and a return to Wembley.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0