Chelsea Club Focus – Fortune favours the brave as Blues show FA Cup intent

It is somewhat of a shame when clubs use the FA Cup as an opportunity to field weaken teams so key players can be rested, especially when defeat is obligatorily followed by the words of consolation: “We can now concentrate on the league.” On Sunday Andre Villas-Boas gave the competition the respect it duly deserved and is reaping the benefits as his side have a great chance to progress in the final eight after being drawn at home to Championship outfit Birmingham City in the next round.

The 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers was of course controversial as Juan Mata’s winner came from the penalty spot after R’s defender Clint Hill was adjudged to have felled Daniel Sturridge in the area, despite the English forward seeming to fall to ground very easily. Whilst QPR remain incensed at the decision, that slice of luck that went Chelsea’s way may be an indicator of things to come in the cup for the Blues, especially if they keep taking their matches as seriously as their encounter at Loftus Road.

With Manchester City and Manchester United having been eliminated, the FA Cup represents a great chance of silverware for Villas-Boas, who has seen their challenge for the league title slip away into an unattainable position, and their Carling Cup adventure ended with a frustrating home defeat to finalists Liverpool. Whilst his side remain in the Champions League facing a two-legged encounter with Italian outfit Napoli in the first knockout stage, England’s famous cup competition remains their greatest hope of success.

It is almost certainly for this reason that Villas-Boas fielded the strongest side available to him in round four, and the Portuguese boss told the official club website how dedicated he is in his endeavour to lift the trophy come May:

We had to make a decision for the starting XI – it was strong. Normally in cup competitions we see slight changes to the starting XI, not that I haven’t done it in the past but bearing in mind our position in the league and the history and prestige of this trophy it sends a good sign for our commitment to the trophy and the people in our team competing for a place.

As the fifth round draw sees Chelsea host Carling Cup holders Birmingham City, the Stamford Bridge faithful could be forgiven for being confident of deposing a lower league opponent, despite Chris Hughton’s side being on a good run themselves having gone nine games unbeaten. The Championship team have scored 21 times and conceded only 3 goals in that period which has seen them climb up the table to within touching distance of a play-off place.

However Chelsea will still be favourites to progress into the quarter finals where they will be likely to face a sterner test in their mission to retain the trophy they recently won in 2009 and 2010. Not only will Villas-Boas be eager for silverware, but the squad must also be hungry it this season, especially the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have achieved so much at the club down the years and have been integral in transforming the modern Chelsea into a club that demands success.

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