FA Cup champions Chelsea begin their defence of last year's other title on Sunday at 3:00 PM BST at Stamford Bridge. In hosting Ipswich in the third round of the cup, Chelsea are facing a team who currently rank 19th in the Championship and who've just done away with their manager. In other words, they're finally facing a team who're in a worse 'moment' than they are, something which hasn't happened since they faced off against Liverpool at Anfield a few months ago (and they lost). I have to admit that I harbour a bit of a soft spot for poor Ipswich, who I mainly remember as the team that lost to Manchester United 9-0 in the 1994/95 season. Andy Cole scored five goals in that game.
Anyway, Ipswich have eight wins, four draws, and twelve losses on the season and have just sacked Roy Keane, who managed them for 18 months with not much other than alarming mediocrity to show for it. Caretaker manager Ian McParland is taking the reigns for the East Anglia club. There's nobody on the team of any real quality to worry Chelsea, but the same thing is true of Wolves, so they can't afford to take their opponents too lightly. What I will say is that any team that Carlo Ancelotti puts out at Stamford Bridge tomorrow should be heavily favoured, even if many regulars are rested.
It sounds like rest is going to happen for more than a few players, too. Michael Essien, Ashley Cole, and Didier Drogba have all picked up knocks and are not expected to play, leaving the door open for the youngsters - Josh McEachran, Patrick van Aanholt, and Daniel Sturridge might all be plausibly expected to feature, and Sturridge certainly deserves the start for his five-goal haul against Tottenham in this week's reserve match. You could make a strong argument for Gael Kakuta to make an appearance as well. In all honesty, I'd expect a mixed reserves/seniors team to play better than the seniors anyway, so it's hard to paint all of these moves as a bad thing.
As for Ipswich, I don't really know what to expect. I haven't watched any of their matches for at least a couple of years, and the only fans of theirs that I know haven't discovered 'the internet' yet. It shouldn't matter who's playing, though - Chelsea haven't lost in the FA Cup since 2008 and Ipswich are not a good side. If there's an upset to be had, it'll be through the magic of the cup rather than because of any individual matchups. We've already seen Arsenal held at home by Leeds, Newcastle dumped out away to League Two Stevanage, and Sunderland lose at home to Nottingham County. Ipswich will be coming into the match going for the kill, and Chelsea are stumbling right now.
Yeah, we should win, and win easily, but if we don't, at least we're in good company.