Game Date/Time: Sunday, March 18th, 14:05 GMT / 10:05am EDT
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
TV: ESPN (UK) / FOX Soccer Plus (USA)
Online: FOX Soccer 2Go
To say that this week has been amazing may be an understatement. We saw an out-of-this-world performance from Chelsea versus Napoli, one that will live in our hearts and minds forever. I'm fairly certain that I've still to come down from that proverbial cloud. The promise of an even brighter future, thanks to the Baby Blues's well-taken step towards the FA Youth Cup finals has not dampened the mood either.
However, somehow, we now have to cast our minds to tomorrow and the continuing FA Cup adventure of the Senior side. Yes, that's right...despite the historic Wednesday night, we do have to get back to work. It may feel like we have just won all the trophies, but in reality, we have a tremendous amount of work left to do to "save" the season.
After all, we're still just 5th in the league with quite a rough couple games coming up. Fourth place, an oft quoted minimum requirement of the season, is by no means assured. With the timing of matches, we may even be 6 points behind by the time the Manchester City match rolls around midweek.
Giving us hope, of course, is this recent, unilateral resurrection of form. Chelsea have notched three wins in a row in all competitions and have yet to taste defeat under Roberto Di Matteo's guidance. They will look to continue that excellent work in an eminently winnable matchup with Championship-side Leicester City in the FA Cup Quarter Finals.
City's season started with promise & ambition, but just 5 wins from the first 13 put a swift end to that (and to Sven-Goran Eriksson's latest ignominious attempt at club football management). Despite those changes, however, their fortunes have not improved much (although they've only been shut out twice in 24 since). Mired in mid-tabled anonymity, they find themselves in 11th and without much of a realistic hope of decreasing the 6 point deficit to the last promotion playoff place.
Like most Championship sides, they have their fair share of Premier League castoffs. Jermaine Beckford is probably the biggest name of the bunch and many of us may remember him for being a constant thorn in the Chelsea side last season when he was still with Everton. He scored in both of our meetings with David Moyes's troop, including this jawdropper (which was then quickly overshadowed by Carlo Ancelotti's subsequent sacking). Another name that should be instantly recognizable to anyone with even just a passing interest in football is Leicester's goalkeeper: Kasper, son of Peter, Schmeichel.
Despite those names and despite being the last non-Premier League side in the FA Cup, The Foxes have owed their progress more to the luck of the draw than any surprise results. Their win over a somewhat second-string Norwich City in the previous round should not strike all that much fear into hearts. Previously, they overcame Nottingham Forest (in a replay) and League Two Swindon Town, both at their home ground in Leicester.
A fairly standard 4-4-2 should be expected - with Beckford and David Nugent leading the line - armed with an overabundance of will, bravery, and courage as they attempt to bring some magic to the FA Cup.
After a grueling 120 minutes on Wednesday and with a view of the upcoming Manchester City (Wed.) and Tottenham (Sat.) league encounters, we may see a bit more of a youthful/reserve side than we have in some of this season's FA Cup matches. Our league struggles may have placed extra emphasis on this competition, but we should have enough quality throughout the squad to win this one regardless of the actual lineup out there. I'd expect (hope?) starts for both Ryan Bertrand and Romelu Lukaku.
With both John Terry & David Luiz picking up knocks against Napoli, Gary Cahill should see another start, probably alongside goalscoring hero Branislav Ivanovic. Ivan deserves rest just as much as his other defensive compatriots of Champions League lore of course...but I'm not sure this is the right time for a Sam Hutchinson (as much as that would be a great story) or a Paulo Ferreira (as much as that would be a scary story).
Birthday boy Raul Meireles will likely make his third start under Di Matteo and hopefully the Magical Mystery Mikel Revival Tour will continue as well. RDM showed he's not afraid to think outside the box by starting Ramires as a left wing...could we possibly see a double-pivot with John Obi Mikel & Oriol Romeu?
I'd also expect ol' Fernando Torres out there, building on his good effort from the Champions League tie and hopefully not missing any empty nets this time.
With confidence surging through the squad nowadays, I'm hoping for a bit of a demolition job here - the type of result that has been in short order this season at Stamford Bridge. Let's make quick & decisive work of the Foxes, book our tickets for New Wembley, and keep the high morale going into the tough league matches on tap.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech - Bertrand, Cahill, Ivanovic, Bosingwa - Mikel, Romeu - Kalou, Meireles, Torres - Lukaku