Chelsea vs Birmingham City - Match preview and prediction
Saturday 18 February 2012
Andre Villas-Boas has to win this game. That fact is simple enough, considering the hectic week Chelsea have suffered since their disastrous 2-0 loss to Everton in the Premier League last weekend. Stormy training ground meetings and doubts over Villas-Boas’ managerial career have filled the press this week, but the Blues have the chance to silence critics with a comprehensive victory over Birmingham City in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Chelsea will be without left-back Ashley Cole after his calf injury picked up during a challenge with Everton defender Phil Neville in the build-up to the Toffees’ second at Goodison Park. Didier Drogba is back from the African Cup of Nations, but will not feature against Birmingham along with his Ivorian international teammate Salomon Kalou. Captain John Terry only returned to full training on Thursday and Villas-Boas will consider bringing the England international back into the side following his knee problem. Terry’s leadership has been sorely missed in the last three games, where Chelsea have failed to pick up a victory. Ramires is back in midfield for the Blues after a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Birmingham may have a poor track record in their last three trips to West London, conceding three goals in each game, but their recent form is much more impressive. Chris Hughton’s men are unbeaten in 13 games and have scored 15 goals in their last four away games, which could pose Villas-Boas a serious problem. Birmingham have injury problems of their own with Nikola Zigic and Marlon King suffering from knee and groin injuries respectively. Adam Rooney is set to spearhead the attack, but does not have the same threat as Zigic and King, who have 17 league goals between them this season. Birmingham played out a goalless draw with Hull in their last game and Hughton’s side will play their 43rd game of the season at Stamford Bridge.
Villas-Boas has stated that Chelsea will regain their focus after their disappointing performance last weekend, despite having one eye on the midweek Champions League tie with Napoli. The changes that are expected to be made to the Blues lineup will encourage Birmingham and they have a great chance to cause an upset. Chelsea should still come out of the game in the draw for the quarter-finals, but not without scepticism over Villas-Boas’ tenure at the club and Fernando Torres’ goalscoring drought.
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