In what has already become a largely forgettable season in the Premier League for Chelsea, it may require success in other competitions to salvage an element of pride and humility back. Although Coral rate the Blues’ chances in the Champions League as relatively slim at 14/1, which is perhaps unsurprising given the current form compared to that of the leading lights across Europe, the FA Cup could present an opportunity for the players to redeem themselves under Guus Hiddink. Chelsea have failed to reach Wembley since 2012 when goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba were enough to see off Liverpool, and although a repeat of last season’s shock 4-2 home defeat at the hands of League One side Bradford in the Fourth Round would be most unwelcome, it could provide the motivation that the team needs to kick-start their season and put the last few months behind them.
There is plenty of work to be done before Chelsea can rest on their laurels and assume that their Premier League status is secure, considering as the gap between the Blues and the relegation zone is too close for comfort. However, it would be safe to write off any chance of Chelsea successfully defending their Premier League crown, and although even a top four finish looks out of the question at the moment, it may already be a case of damage limitation – something that no Chelsea fan, or anyone else for that matter, had predicted before a ball had even been kicked. Enjoying a good FA Cup could, at the very least, lift morale within the dressing room and repair the damage that culminated in Mourinho losing his job; although the ‘Special One’ lost his cool and unnecessarily got himself into trouble on more than one occasion with the FA, the players should also take a good look at themselves and ask whether they have truly put in one hundred percent for the cause.
Winning a prestigious tournament such as the FA Cup would unquestionably be the shining achievement for Chelsea, but the fact the winners are now awarded a place in the Europa League provides an even greater incentive to go all the way. There is no guarantee that the team will be able to transform their fortunes in the league in order to keep their Champions League aspirations alive, so remaining in Europe through alternative means has to be considered. If the pressure to succeed in the Premier League has already become too much for Chelsea, it’s heating up already in the FA Cup where shocks have already occurred; with the Blues backed at 7/1 with Coral to go all the way, a repeat of last year’s disaster would be a new low in what has already been a season tinged with disappointment and major underachievement.
Although there is little way in existence of a feel good factor around the club, starting this season’s FA Cup adventure at Stamford Bridge against either Leyton Orient or Scunthorpe may be the ideal starting point for Chelsea to build upon and have realistic ambitions of reaching the latter stages. It is inconceivable that lower league opponents are likely to make it uneasy and give it a real go in the hopes of emulating Bradford’s achievements, but a game against either team presents an opportunity for certain players to step up to the plate. Such games would not necessarily require Cesc Fabregas or Eden Hazard, but as both have been well below their best this season, it may provide the kick up the backside they need to reignite the spark in their bellies. The same also applies to Branislav Ivanovic who has looked completely out of sorts, although if he and the rest of the team put together more performances like the thoroughly impressive one against FC Porto, then Chelsea could represent good value in the FA Cup Betting stakes.