Often, Cup and European matches are an unwelcome distraction, both in terms of mentality and fitness. Sometimes, they are a welcome distraction. This one's of the latter kind. Perfect timing, in fact.
After a slightly troubling December (though it did include a five-match winning streak), Chelsea started January and the new year in rather disastrous fashion. The previously airtight defense conceded as many goals in 90 minutes than it had in the previous 990. While it was only the second loss all season for the Blues, Spurs -- through a combination of laser-guided shooting and hilariously subpar days from most of the Chelsea boys -- exposed and took advantage of potential weaknesses in Mourinho's tactics rather expertly.
Does that mean it's time for major changes both in starting personnel and tactics? Is the 5-3 loss to Spurs the watershed moment like last year's run of results (4-3 win, 3-2 loss, ..., 2-1 loss to Sunderland), after which Mourinho declared his intent to aim for 1-0 wins from there on out? I suppose we'll find out in due course.
Until then, let's enjoy a day out in the FA Cup, a day that promises much squad rotation and hopefully a fun reprieve from the suddenly all-even and highly stressful Premier League.
Date / Time: Sunday, January 4, 2015, 16:00 GMT; 11am EST; 9:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Kevin Friend -- Five years and one day ago, Friend's first ever Chelsea match was our 5-0 FA Cup win over Watford. Since then, he's refereed 10 more games for the Blues, including two already earlier this season (0-0 at Sunderland, 4-2 vs. Swansea City). In his last game, Hull City 2-0 Everton, Friend dished out seven yellows, including two to Antolín Alcáraz.
Forecast: Cold. Winter is definitely here.
On TV: none
Online: none (video); BBC Radio (audio), Chelsea TV (audio, or video if we're REALLY lucky but probably not)
Chelsea Team News: The official word, as has been the case for some time, is that the squad is fully healthy. Yet, as we keep learning through a veil of secrecy, the likes of Ramires and André Schürrle and perhaps others (Oscar?) have hardly been fully fit. There was plenty of mystery and misinformation surrounding Diego Costa's injury issues as well earlier this season. So who knows. Thibaut Courtois may or may not have an injured finger right now, for another example. Whether deliberately or incidentally, our exact injury situation is a giant question mark.
What does seem patently clear is that Mourinho will ring the changes for this one, with Mikel and Petr Cech at least sure to get a start. The Sun's professional troll and sometimes valid source of information Rob Beasley claims the following.
Cech Ramires Zouma Christensen Luis Mikel Ake Salah Schurrle Remy Drogba— ROB (@1RobBeasley) January 3, 2015
(If that proves to be true, we can also probably trust him on the previous tweet, which claims that "we" are not signing Paul Pogba or Marco Reus.)
Watford Team News: Having come so very close to promotion in 2013 under Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola, but finishing just mid-table last season, Watford are trying their luck with another ex-Blue in Slaviša Jokanović who's held in just slightly lower regard than Zola. Just a tiny bit. Jokanović is already the fourth man in charge this season. Watford started the season well enough, but a run of five losses in eight have dropped them to just fifth. They did win last weekend, away from home at Cardiff City.
There's speed and goals throughout the side. Matej Vydra's back after a loan season at WBA, while Troy Deeney, Fernando Forestieri, and Almen Abdi could all pose a decent threat. While there's no real reason to fear -- Chelsea did beat Derby County, a side of similar calibre as Watford, rather handily in the League Cup not long ago -- Watford have nothing to lose and everything to gain. A Chelsea loss probably wouldn't be the end of the world; yet, a deep FA Cup run is a minimum expectation for every season.
Previously: Our last meeting with Watford is the aforementioned FA Cup tie from 2010. In fact, four of our last six meetings with the Hornets have occurred in this competition. Back in the '80s, Chelsea regularly lost to Watford, but nowadays that situation's fully reversed; though considering that they have only spent two seasons in the Premier League (via two one-year stints), meetings are rare. This will be just the 27th match all-time between the two sides; here's what happened last time.