After two easy rounds against lower league opposition, including a bit of a laugher against MK Dons in the last round, the difficulty level ramps up to perhaps as high as it can go as Manchester City come to town on Sunday. Two of our last three runs in the FA Cup ended at the Citizens' hands.
This competition, as we had talked about since its start, remains our best and likeliest chance of winning a trophy this season. While Manchester City remain alive on four fronts, and thus might have to divide their attentions and de-prioritize this competition, we need to do the exact opposite and place extra emphasis on it. Exit for City might be explained away as a necessary evil; exit for Chelsea would be yet another disappointing turn in a season full of them.
Hiddink may have lost on Tuesday, but he remains unbeaten in FA Cup matches in his Chelsea career. He of course won it in 2009, and wants to win it again. The winner of this game moves on to the quarterfinals. Let's make it so.
Date / Time: Sunday, February 21, 2016, 16:00 GMT; 11am EST; 9:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Andre Marriner — Mr. Eagle Eyes is back at the Bridge for the first time since the 2-2 against Watford at the end of December. Ominously enough, it was Marriner who was in charge of our exit from last year's FA Cup.
Forecast: Unseasonably mild.
On TV: BBC One (UK); Fox Sports 2 (USA); Sony Six (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BBC 5 Live (UK; radio); Fox Soccer 2Go (USA); ChelseaTV (int'l; radio)
Chelsea team news: John Terry, Kurt Zouma and Radamel Falcao remain out. Nemanja Matic is once again available after sitting out midweek due to suspension. New signings Miazga and Pato remain on the fringes of the first-team, though the former was on the bench as an emergency option on Tuesday night and could serve the same role on Sunday as well.
With the loss against PSG, Chelsea's unbeaten run has come to a close. Time to start a new one!
Manchester City team news: Pellegrini's men have lost back-to-back home games to fall six points back in the Premier League title chase. One would not expect City to go on a run of three straight defeats, but that's exactly what they'll have to do if Chelsea are to progress.
Complicating the visitors' lives is the upcoming trip to Kiev for Wednesday's Champions League match, which supposedly will see them field a younger, less experienced lineup on Sunday (though a similar move just resulted in Iheanacho scoring a hat-trick in the previous round for them). We'll see how much of that turns out to be truth and how much of it are just mind games, but City do have a fairly lengthy injury list, which does include the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas, Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri, Eliaquim Mangala, and Bacary Sagna.
Regardless of who does and who doesn't play from what still should be the best team "on paper" in the country, this will be a major challenge.
View from the enemy: Bitter and Blue
Previously: Last time Chelsea beat Manchester City in the FA Cup was 1915.