Kalou 33, Sturridge 33, 52, Edwards (og) 41, Anelka 49, Lampard 78, 79
Chelsea put aside their Premier League woes to kick-off their FA Cup defence with a seven goal thrashing of Championship Ipswich.
Carlo Ancelotti started with youngsters Josh McEachran, Daniel Sturridge and Patrick van Aanholt, but The Blues were hardly a weakened side with Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba all on the bench. Branislav Ivanovic returned from suspension to partner John Terry at the back whilst Jose Bosingwa kept his place at right back despite a poor run of form.
The result – though emphatic – far from suggests Chelsea have escaped their recent slump. However, the glut of goals can only have given the players a much needed confidence boost. Frank Lampard made a timely return to goal scoring form with a double, but Sturridge’s brace was the stand out positive. With Nicolas Anelka and Drogba struggling to find their usually irrepressible goal scoring touch, it is vital that Ancelotti has someone to turn to on the bench. Sturridge has seen very little first team action since his move from Manchester City in the summer of 2009, and judging a player on a cluster of substitute appearances is hardly fair.
Chelsea hadn’t exactly had it all their own way when Ipswich started their hour long implosion in the 30th minute, but Kalou’s breakthrough helped create a menacing swagger that steamrolled their visitors. Suddenly, Stamford Bridge was an arena of calm, and the players excelled because of it. Obviously, this is purely circumstantial, but at least Ancelotti has a recent performance from which he can attempt to extract belief from his players. Slick, sweeping attacks ended in genuine sights of goal for the first time in months and Nicolas Anelka’s first goal in eleven games could not have come sooner. The Frenchman is just one in a long list of Stamford Bridge stars in a miserable rut but his crisp finish from a tight angle would have done wonders for his ego.
Four goals from three strikers gives Ancelotti a fantastic selection headache ahead of the Premier League clash with Blackburn, but the Italian could make a bold statement in giving Sturridge the nod. A decent run of games could be the making of the youngster who showed today his finesse with two deft finishes. His incredible pace makes him a nightmare for any defender and playing off the towering Drogba should give him ample opportunity to demonstrate his talent in the final third.
Vying to lift the FA Cup for a third consecutive season – an exploit last accomplished in 1886 by Blackburn Rovers – Chelsea must first navigate their way past Everton in the fourth round. The Toffees will provide a much sterner test then the manager-less Ipswich, but with Chelsea so far behind in the race for the title, the FA Cup may just be their best bet for silverware this season.
17 Bosingwa – 2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 38 van Aanholt
46 McEachran – 8 Lampard – 7 Ramires
21 Kalou – 23 Sturidge – 39 Anelka
55 – 44 Kakuta on for Kalou
70 – 43 Bruma on for van Aanholt