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FA CUP SEMI FINAL: Chelsea top Drogs for return trip to Wembley

FA Cup

By Joe Carroll.

Chelsea go into tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final clash against Aston Villa hoping to repeat a similar feat that saw them trounce the Midlands club 7-1 – however Chelsea should be warned not to expect the same Villa that failed to turn up in their most recent Stamford Bridge encounter.

Despite their overwhelming win over tomorrow’s cup opponents last month, all the right noises are sounding from Stamford Bridge ahead of the game at Wembley, with boss Carlo Ancelotti and club captain John Terry refusing to let the 8 goal thriller have any influence on the team’s preparation.

“We need to make sure when we go in to the game we forget what has happened recently and approach it the way we normally would.”

Whilst Terry and co should of course be very confident in preparation for the FA Cup clash, having appeared at the new Wembley no less than seven times in the last four years, it is comforting to see that the Blues are not boasting arrogance, especially considering their excellent run of form lately.  Chelsea have scored 13 times in their last three outings, conceding just twice.

One could point to the return of Peter Cech for Chelsea’s upturn in fortunes since they were dumped out of the Champions League by ex-Chelsea favouite Jose Mourinho.  The Czech stopper may not have enjoyed his best season, coming under close scrutiny on a number of occasions, but Chelsea have not looked back since his return to the starting XI at Portsmouth last month and he has privided a solid base for his side’s attacking personnel to run riot.

Another might point to Frank Lampard’s impressive form which helped him to help himself to four goals against tomorrow’s opponents in the Stamford Bridge encounter.  Whatever the reason, Chelsea are playing free-flowing attacking football and despite the calls by Chelsea’s seniors to forget about last week’s 7-1 thrashing, there is no reason why Ancelotti’s men can’t continue this good form.  And with the potential of finishing the 09/10 campaign with two trophies, you can’t say that there is not enough incentive for Chelsea to confidently win at Wembley tomorrow, if their hurtful European exit wasn’t enough already.

After last week’s broken promise that leading scorer Didier Drogba was due to start at Old Trafford, it may be a safer bet seven days on to predict that the Ivorian striker will be on the pitch ready to kick-off Chelsea’s ambition to lift English football’s most famous trophy for the second year running.  With the Blues leading the pack of Premier League title hopefuls, this may well be the date that Ancelotti has been putting aside for Drogba, after he sat out of their last two games.

The Italian’s tacticianship will no doubt be praised from back to front of the Sunday papers should he mastermind a victory that will see Chelsea’s safe passage into their second FA Cup final in as many years.  Last week his decision to go back on his pre-match admission that Drogba would start against Manchester United paid off bountifully- Drogba coming off the bench to score an assured if not controversial goal that put the Blues 2-0 to the good.  This week he’ll hope for a similar result, this time by awarding him with a place on the team sheet:

“Drogba will not stay on the bench on Saturday. He will play from the beginning.

“Didier did this very well against Manchester United. He was fresh when he came on the pitch and he did a fantastic job. He scored.”

With the team approaching tomorrow’s game in a confident yet cautious manner, and with that added element of ‘history’ on their side that more often than not has a tendency of repeating itself, Chelsea fans should be hopeful of booking another trip to Wembley for next month’s final.

In the same breath however, ‘history’, unstable as it is seemingly predictable sometimes throws up surprises, and Martin O’Neill’s side will relish thier status as under dogs.  Blues fans will be hoping their top Drog will be let off the leash from the first whistle to ensure it is the Villains leaving Wembley licking their wounds with their tails between their legs and not them.

Team News

Chelsea: No fresh injury concerns for Ancelotti who is expected to name a relatively unchanged side to the one that overcame Manchester United last week.  Drogba should start, but it is unclear as to who will make way for the striker.  With Chelsea’s tendency to play one up front, it could mean Nicolas Anelka is dropped, however his performances of late have been highly impressive, which may cause Ancelotti to have a re-think.  Branislav Ivanovic is also in contention after two weeks on the sidelines.

Aston Villa: O’Neill has concerns over both Richard Dunner and James Milner, but due to the high stakes on offer at Wembley it is likely their fitness will be risked.

Possible Line-Ups

Chelsea: Cech; Zhirkov, Terry, Alex, Ferreira; Malouda, Lampard, Mikel, J.Cole; Anelka, Drogba

Aston Villa:Friedel; Warnock, Dunne, Collins, L.Young; A.Young, Milner, Petrov, Sidwell; Agbonlahor, Heskey.

Who would you sacrifice to make way for Drogba?…Should the Blues start with two up-front?…What are Chelsea’s chances of making it to the final?…please leave your comments below…

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