Preston are languishing six points above the relegation zone in the Championship and their task at hand is colossal. Chelsea have been on high-scoring form of late and after seeing their fellow Championship occupiers Watford seamlessly pushed aside in a 5-0 demolition, Preston will find little comfort heading into the tie. Preston, however, provided their own demolition in the competition after seeing off lower league opposition Colchester United in a seven goal win, although they failed to take this into their next game which yielded a 4-2 defeat to Bristol City. Chelsea meanwhile will hope to carry the impetus of their 7-2 victory over Sunderland through to their next tie.
Despite the gaping difference in quality and standing between the two sides, Preston’s record against the Blues stands strong. The record books have dug out surprising results with the Lilywhites winning 26 to Chelsea’s thirty in the last 73 meetings. However, somewhat inevitably, the FA Cup history books indicate an away win, with Chelsea progressing the last three times the two sides have met in the domestic competition. With this said, the awe of the FA Cup is that these above facts are discarded as are the form tables, it is the team with the strongest appetite on the day that deserves their fifth round spot. Manchester United and Liverpool provide healthy warnings to the Blues, who will demand a professional approach in order to overcome the resolute underdogs.
Birmingham, Burnley and Hull will follow in the league, as Chelsea hope to minimise the repercussions of a lack of African athleticism – despite Michael Essien likely to miss a number of upcoming games, Carlo Ancelotti will be pleased to once again have the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jon Obi Mikel at his disposal. Chelsea will enter each game as firm favourites and will be expected to accumulate nine points from this period, although the trio have provoked their fair share of upsets since arriving in the league. After losing the lead at the top of the Premier League, Chelsea will be keen to build momentum in order to recapture the top position they have held since the opening weeks of the season.
Off the field the transfer window has been relatively quiet as the club’s focus remains on keeping their heads above water. The Blues appear to be blas