Middlesborough vs. Chelsea, FA Cup: Team News & Preview

When in doubt, use a Torres picture - Alex Livesey

Oh hurrah, ah hurray; another chance for glorious clownshoes!

Last night, around nine o'clock, I turned on my television only to see some football (CALCIO; SAHKERRRRR!) twinkling at me through the diodes. Must be a replay, I thought to myself - yep, here comes Gareth Bale again; here he comes to be even more annoying than I could've ever possibly imagined - but then why does it say LIVE in the corner? How perfectly strange: football and it's nighttime! It's amazing what all we get used to watching the European leagues in America. I really should move (back) to Europe on a more permanent basis ... I might even figure out two-lane roundabouts by then.

In any case, here comes more football under the lights (prime-time!) for Chelsea. The bright, magical lights of the FA Cup that is; not only a perfect opportunity for more high profile embarrassment but with the right result (i.e. a replay), a possible gateway to fixture-congestiopocalypse. Fun! Also, [fun]! So let's just all hope this goes more the way of Leeds rather than Brentford.

Of course, the fact that we have to resort to "hope" in this situation - remember, Chelsea Cup! - speaks volumes ... if these words could speak. Speak, words, speak! Turn up your volume.

Date/Time: Wednesday, February 27, 19:45 GMT (2:45 P.M. EST; Feb. 28, 1:15 A.M. IST)

Venue: Riverside Stadium, Middlesborough

TV Information: none (UK); Fox Soccer (USA); ESPN HD (India)

It continues to baffle me how scarcely available televised football is in England, yet TV rights sell for half the universe's GDP.

Middlesborough: Many of us are more acquainted with Tony Mowbray's side this season than any other given year thanks to the presence of on-loan midfielder and malnourished zombie stunt double Josh McEachran. I am not one of those people, having watched them about once so far. Sorry, Josh! I still love you and have high hopes for you in Chelsea Blue!

A quick gander at the rest of their roster reveals a boatload of Premier League rejects and retirees (Kieron Dyer, Justin Hoyte, Jonathan Woodgate, etc), along with some dude from the Nostromo (Ripley, Connor Ripley), and a man who has failed to score for Australia in 26 appearances. Now, if you can't score for Australia National (Association) Football Team, Scott McDonald, the team that often plays the likes of Guam and other random atolls and sandbars of the Pacific, perhaps you should reexamine your Torresian life of strikership. McDonald is Boro's leading scorer.

McDonald should get the start as Lukas Jutkiewicz is doubtful with an ankle injury. Stuart Parnaby and the aforementioned Justin "not even good enough for a Wenger defense" Hoyte are likely to miss out as well. McEachran is of course ineligible.

Middlesborough fell out of the Premier League in 2009 and in the four seasons since they've generally followed the pattern of starting hot, often as one of the favorites for promotion, only to fade in the second half of the season. Case in point: since the new year, they've won exactly one league match from nine and have slipped to just 10th in the Championship.

Chelsea: Speaking of fantastic trends, Chelsea have one win from their last six matches, in all competitions, away from Stamford Bridge. Oh no, did the poisonous atmosphere follow them on the road now, too? Wait, I've seen this in a movie once; the gas is alive! Run for your lives! Run...

Fear not, for there's a secret weapon. An insider possessing great knowledge of tonight's opponents - having played for them for two seasons - providing acute tactical insight (not to mention, dance moves) that should allow Chelsea to shed the oppressive shackles of 4-2-3-1 rigidity and adjust to a formation and strategy best suited for the available players. This great weapon is of course Secret Agent BOLO, assistant. Assistant what? Who knows.

As Stephen told you earlier, BOLO's boss informed us that he's planning on Rafotating Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, who now will take their turn at entertaining Oriol Romeu with fun games and puzzles. BOLO's boss was also quick to remind everybody that this is now Chelsea's 48th match of the season. I repeat, 48th. 48th.

48th. 48th!

That's 48th, in case you missed it. Apparently, that's a lot.

Especially when the team gives its fans very little joy.

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