It's a new year, a new dawn. A Magic of the FA Cup™ dawn. As Chelsea other Premier League teams enter the world's oldest football competition in this, the third knockout round, underdogs dream of becoming giant killers, the giants hope to avoid being on the wrong end of fairy tales. It's all very magical, you see.
For Chelsea, the occasion is rather special, even more so than usual. Not that it's ever not special — at one point not too long ago Chelsea had basically renamed it the Chelsea Cup by winning four times in a six-year span — but the Blues have not won it since 2012. Some legends even say, it won't happen again without serial winner and 7-time champion Ashley Cole.
But given the season we've had, plus last year's shock elimination against Bradford City, and seeing as how the FA Cup represents not only our best
and last chance of winning a trophy, but also our best way back into European competition next season, it's become a must-seize opportunity to restore credibility to our credentials.
First step: Scunthorpe United of League One.
Date/Time: Sunday, January 10, 2016, 14:00 GMT; 9am EST; 7:30pm IST.
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Craig Pawson — this season, Pawson refereed Chelsea our 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace as well as our 1-0 home victory over Norwich, both in the Premier League. His last refereed match was Sunderland's 3-1 win against Aston Villa, in which he handed out 7 yellow cards total.
Forecast: Dry for the most part of the day, with the Sun popping in and out of the clouds during the match.
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes (USA); Sony SIX (India); elsewhere.
Streaming Online: BT Sport Live (UK); Fox Sports GO, Fox Sports 2GO (USA); Chelsea TV (radio, int'l)
Chelsea team news: With Radamel Falcao and Loïc Rémy still unavailable due to injury, Chelsea might have to use a 'surprise' player to cover first-team striker Diego Costa, as hinted by Guus Hiddink in his pre-match press conference yesterday. That surprise could very well be loan returnee Patrick Bamford (though that would prevent Bamford from going on loan the rest of the season) or perhaps youngster Bertrand Traoré, or some other solution.
Another player who's unavailable is Eden Hazard, who is also likely to miss out our Premier League match against West Bromwich next Wednesday and could be a doubt for next weekend as well. Hazard's groin injury comes quickly on the heels of his hip injury; Chelsea will no doubt take our time and not rush him back to ensure that he's properly recovered.
César Azpilicueta suffered a double fracture to his cheek in our last match, but he will be available to play. Hiddink even joked about having two Zorros on Chelsea's side since Azpilicueta and Nemanja Matic will be both donning protective masks. We can use all the help we can get!
Chelsea are unbeaten since sacking Mourinho and have collected a win and two draws under Hiddink specifically. As we look to build upon the good performance and win against Palace a week ago, chances are that the manager will continue to rely on experience as opposed to youth. No doubt we would all love to see the kids get a chance, but also no doubt avoid a repeat of the debacle of Bradford in last season's FA Cup.
Scunthorpe United team news: The League One side/hopeful Bradford mk.II beat Southend United in the FA Cup's first round and Leyton Orient after a replay to get to Stamford Bridge. Everyone and everything associated with Scunthorpe are genuinely excited to face Chelsea in the competition.
"We're looking forward to it - it's a big game, it's a great game and it's one to look forward to for everybody. I've had to calm people down in the training sessions, everybody's excited by the prospect of playing against the current [Premier League] champions."
-Mark Robins, manager; source: Scunthorpe Telegraph
Scunthorpe will be missing striker Tom Hopper and winger Gary McSheffrey due to injury. They also won't have new signing Conor Townsend available due to his previous appearances for non-league Grimsby Town in the competition earlier this season.
Hiddink singled out Paddy Madden as The Iron's main threat. With 14 goals in 30 appearances this season, the visitors will be once gain hoping to rely on him. Outside of Madden, Scunthorpe don't seem to carry much of a goalscoring threat. They have scored just 28 goals in 25 League One matches this season — 11 of which have come from the Irishman.
Previously: The last meeting between Chelsea and Scunthorpe United also took stage in the FA Cup, back in January 8, 2005, with José Mourinho in charge and the Blues coming from behind and winning 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Scunthorpe's early lead in that match generated one of the funnier moments in live television punditry, courtesy of Chris Kamara.