In September, if you would have told Andre Villas-Boas that he would be playing Birmingham in the fifth round of the FA Cup, he would have shrugged it off as background noise, just another fixture in the heavy schedule of late winter.
But in reality, Chelsea’s fifth-round FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge could boil down to be the biggest of Villas-Boas’ young career with the Blues.
Chelsea has been an abysmal team in recent weeks, winless in their last four league games and barely able to scrape out a win against QPR in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Strikers aren’t scoring, midfielders aren’t controlling the ball and defenders are giving away easy goals.
This has all led to Villas-Boas being on the hot seat. One of his only two life lines remaining is winning this tournament.
The other life line actually complicates this one.
Chelsea travel to Napoli immediately after hosting Birmingham. With only three days of rest, they will take on the tough Italian side in their first leg of the Champions League round of 16.
Villas-Boas’ managerial skills will have to be at their best as he balances the many variables that go into this weekend and beyond. He does not want to concede the FA cup as it is his most reasonable shot at silverware. But at the same time, embarrassment in Europe could be even more catastrophic.
Here is my predicting starting XI for the FA Cup game.