Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Sunday 4 January
Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
After the debacle against Spurs on New Year’s Day, an FA Cup tie against Watford has to be welcome, even if it’s just to give us the opportunity to rest some tired legs. We’d have been forgiven for thinking our players had been on the lash New Year’s Eve, with them looking a completely different side from the one that had given West Ham a lesson in football, withstood Stoke’s best attempts at Sunday league tackling and even persevered against poor decisions and a resilient Southampton defence to get a point away.
The FA Cup has to be a favourite competition for us, with us lifting the trophy seven times so far and as far as today’s opposition goes, we’re no strangers either, having played Watford and beaten them twice in this competition since 2009.
So, let’s just get 2015 back on track shall we.
Going into this FA Cup fixture, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho says “Obviously we are going to rest a couple of players, that’s normal. We want to try to beat Watford but, at the same time, we have to analyse the players’ condition and make the right decision for them, and give a chance to other people to play. It’s impossible to go for one trophy, or two, or three, or four. It’s only possible to go for the next match. The next match is FA Cup and we want to try to win the FA Cup. Simple as that. We don’t choose competitions. We choose the next match and the next match is against Watford – and it’s an important match. It’s a difficult game. It’s a good team, one of the best teams in the Championship. We have the experience of the difficulties against teams like Bolton, Derby, teams that we played already this season. They have a good team and they are fresh. They didn’t play this New Year fixture. They will go to try to beat us, so we need to be alert because the game is going to be difficult.”
Watford manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who was on the bench for Chelsea’s 2002 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, says “The FA Cup final really was one of the most important days in my whole career. I remember we had some celebrations planned because we arrived at this game with intentions and belief to beat Arsenal. We had plans but Arsenal broke us that day. I was very, very disappointed. It is probably true that if I hadn’t played for Chelsea then I might not be manager of Watford now. I am very happy to have another chance to be in that stadium again.
I am not especially happy because they [Chelsea] lost this game [5-3 to Tottenham]. The last [previous] game they drew against Southampton, now they’ve lost this game, so the level of the attention of Chelsea is going to be very, very high and we’re probably not going to find a team who is relaxed. But we must put them under some kind of pressure and some kind of problems to be competitive and to think about something important.”
For Chelsea, Courtois (finger) is likely to be rested along with Costa, Hazard and Cahill. Petr Cech, Felipe Luis, Andre Schurrle and Kurt Zouma could start.
For Watford, Joel Ekstrand (back) and Gabriel Tamas (cruciate) are out although Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra could return. Sebastien Bassong is ineligible under the terms of his loan deal from Norwich, whilst Adlene Guedioura has returned to Crystal Palace at the end of his loan spell.
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Cech; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Ivanovic, Luis; Mikel, Ramires; Schurrle, Oscar, Salah; Remy
WATFORD (Possible line-up): Gomes; Angella, Cathcart, Bassong, Pudil; Anya, Guedioura, Munari, Tozser; Abdi, Deeney
Form in FA Cup: DWLWW
Form in all competitions: WWWWDL
Form in FA Cup: WLLDW
Form in all competitions: LWWWLW
•Chelsea have not lost to Watford in any competition this century
•Chelsea have won four of the five FA Cup ties they have played against Watford •Chelsea have scored nine goals without conceding in two previous FA Cup ties against Watford
•Chelsea have only lost 2 of their last 33 FA Cup matches
•Chelsea have won the FA Cup 7 times
•Watford reached the FA Cup final in 1983-84 (lost 2-0 to Everton)
We should certainly have enough about us to get through this particular tie even with players rested, so it will be all about how we respond to that shambles New Year’s Day. Mourinho wouldn’t allow another defeat, would he?