Funny bunch, the football gods. They saw fit to keep these two next door neighbors apart for 63 years, but now they're going to have them meet twice in the span of just three weeks. The best part of their prank is that they had a certain Fernando Torres score a rather great goal - his only goal in his past 13 appearances - just to ensure that Chelsea vs. Brentford is a thing once again.
Actually, we probably shouldn't poke too much fun at the football gods, for they seem to be in vindictive mood in this year's cups. Not satisfied with just League Cup clownshoes, they've heaped plenty of mischief unto the FA Cup as well. And while Luton Town fell rather unceremoniously on Saturday, so did Arsenal, their trophy-less streak now approaching floating-point-out-of-bounds proportions. And Oldham Town rescued a draw with literally the final header / elbow / kick of the ball thanks to that eminently lovable Matt Smith. No, the other one!
So get out all your making-trophies-rain dances; Brentford are in town, and the football gods are not smiling.
Date/Time: Sunday, February 17, 12:00 GMT; 7:00 A.M. EST; 5:30 P.M. IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
TV Information: ITV 1 (UK); Fox Soccer (USA); ESPN HD (India)
What a worthless hour for a kick-off. Ye gods...
Chelsea: The two sides having drawn three weeks ago, this replay will have to produce a victor ... or should I say, a Victor should produce in this match. Victor Moses is back everybody! That's Champion of Africa Victor Moses to you, young man.
Also back, John Terry. Supposedly. But when the RAFALUTION is in full effect, nothing should be taken for granted. Just as an example, one would think that any manager would do his utmost to re-establish last year's best defensive partnership (Terry - David Luiz). But oh no, not this one; for Rule #49 of the RAFALUTION Code states that one should persist, if even remotely possible at all, with the Ivanovic - Cahill pairing until true catastrophe strikes. And sure, JT wasn't at his usual best the last time he played - but if he's ever going to regain any semblance of match fitness, he needs to be plugged back into the starting lineup against the likes of Brentford (and/or Sparta Prague).
After travelling with a squad of just 19 to Prague, Mr. Interim Failure now has the full squad at his disposal - including John Mikel Obi but except Oriol Romeu of course, who I'm sure has finished War & Peace by now and has moved on to the works of Marcel Proust. Having a full, healthy squad at a manager's disposal is usually looked upon as a good thing, but in this case I'm fearing the curse of the "rotation" (RAFALUTION rotation = RAFOTATION? RAFATION?), wherein both Juan Mata and Eden Hazard take a seat on the bench and Ryan Bertrand plays left wing. And Yossi Benayoun starts at AMC. And Oscar plays right wing.
Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh! Hold on. Need more beer.
Brentford: Just like Chelsea, they have no short-term injury concerns. What they might be concerned about is the fact that the match will be played on a proper pitch, rather than some unholy combination of a sand trap, a muddy bog, and a flat mogul run.
In the three matches since the now famous 2-2 draw, Brentford have lost once (expected, to third place Yeovil), drawn once (very bad home result vs. relegation fodder Bury), and, most recently, won once (home vs. mid-table Stevenage) to stay in the playoff race of League One.
Leading scorer Clayton Donaldson is now riding a four-match scoreless streak, but Marcelo Trotta (on loan from Fulham), he of the first goal vs. Chelsea, has scored three instead. Harry Forrester, the man who tormented Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill the first time around, has two goals in the same span.
Chelsea are riding a 25-match unbeaten streak in the FA Cup, but manager Uwe Rosler is unfazed. I would expect nothing less from a man who beat cancer, or from a man whose charges have literally nothing to lose: "I still believe it is possible. The chances are slimmer but I think it is still possible." So you're saying there's a chance?
After a horrid streak, Chelsea have won back-to-back matches this week for the first time since the end of December. Not too surprisingly, and despite netting four versus Wigan, they've done it without looking overly impressive. Here then, is as good of a chance as it's humanly possible to notch a third win in a row, to run up the score, and to make everybody feel a little bit better ahead of looming Manchester City (and Sparta Prague, again) next week.