Chelsea’s FA Cup hat-trick ambitions will be put to the test on Saturday as they face a tough obstacle with a trip to Goodison Park for an all-Premier League fourth round clash with Everton.
Chelsea have dominated the competition in recent years, having taken the FA Cup back to Stamford Bridge three times in the last four years. Boss Carlo Ancelotti, who retained the trophy when beating Portsmouth in last year’s final, could make history by taking his side to Wembley to lift the Cup for a third successive time in May.
First, he must inspire Chelsea to overcome a determined Everton side who will be out to avenge the 2009 Cup Final defeat when Guus Hiddink was in charge at the Bridge. Confidence looks to be restored in the Chelsea ranks and the team seems to have put behind them the misery of the slump if form that put cloud over West London in recent months.
The current run of three consecutive wins was spurred by the third round trouncing of Ipswich three weeks ago when Dean Sturridge and Frank Lampard chipped in with a brace apiece in the 7-0 win at Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti’s men carried the form into their next two league games, beating Blackburn 2-0 at home before travelling to high flying Bolton to burst their bubble with a 4-0 win reminiscent of the devastation Chelsea caused in the early weeks of the season.
David Moyes will see the FA Cup as a chance for Everton win some glory this season; their league position is probably not a true reflection of the performances this term, but they face a stiff uphill challenge to fight their way into a European qualifying position from their current 14th spot. The Toffees qualified for Saturday’s home draw after cruising past Scunthorpe in the 5-1 away win in the third round.
They followed with a 2-2 draw at Anfield in the Merseyside derby where they will feel they deserved to win but disappointed when being held to another 2-2 draw by relegation threatened West Ham at Goodison last weekend.
It was around this time last season that Everton were putting behind them a miserable home record to begin a run of 13 games unbeaten in front of home fans. Chelsea were among the victims of the resurgent Toffees’ side who had Louis Saha to thank for his two goals in the 2-1 win last February. Saha has overcome his thigh strain and while sitting out the West Ham game will be pushing for starting position on Saturday.
Moyes main goal provider this season is Tim Cahill and he continues to be a miss as he is playing for Australia in the Asian Cup. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov came off the bench to score from midfield against the Hammers and could feature from the start as Moyes looks to provide a goal threat against a Chelsea defence that has kept three consecutive clean sheets.
Ancelotti will consider giving Daniel Sturridge a start, despite Didier Drogba and Nikolas Anelka being in goalscoring form, the youngster hit twice in the third game against Ipswich and deserves another opportunity while another exciting Chelsea prospect, Josh McEarchran could get a chance to show why he is so highly rated.