My Chelsea Team to Face Brentford
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Few will deny that League One outfit Brentford were Chelsea's equals in the initial FA Cup fourth-round tie, but when Fernando Torres' late goal saved the Blues' blushes, surely Uwe Rosler's side missed the boat to progress into the next round.
The awful pitch at Griffin Park was a leveller, hindering Chelsea's passing play, as the Bees set around their near neighbours with no fear or intimidation.
However, it will be a different ballgame at Stamford Bridge, and on a big, open pitch with plenty of grass, Rafa Benitez's side should surely make light work of a team ranked 47 places below them in the league hierarchy.
With games coming thick and fast in three different competitions, the visit of Brentford provides Benitez with an opportunity to rest some of his more overworked players ahead of a congested schedule.
Therefore, given the context of this game and strength of the opposition, I select the Chelsea starting X1 I would pick to see off Brentford.
Goalkeeper: Ross Turnbull
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Petr Cech insisted he played through the discomfort of a broken finger to make a return to Sparta Prague, but with games coming thick and fast in three different competitions, is there any point in risking the Czech stopper against lower-league opposition?
Ross Turnbull rarely convinces for Chelsea and was indeed culpable in part for the two goals Brentford scored at Griffin Park in the first leg.
But like any player, goalkeepers need match minutes to find their groove, and if anything does happen to Cech long term, Turnbull will be required to step up to the plate.
A combination of Cech's broken finger and a need to give Turnbull some more exposure means the former Middlesbrough trainee should be given the nod, and if Chelsea don't win, there will be more inquisitions than who was between the sticks.
Back Four: Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Bertrand
JT could do with a run out.
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There is an argument to give Paulo Ferreira a run out at right-back, but with the veteran Portuguese player very much surplus to requirements, I'd be reticent to remove Cesar Azpilicueta from his right-back berth with the Spaniard in a rich vein of form.
Centrally, John Terry certainly needs to come back in to gain some sharpness after a long injury layoff. The Blues skipper looked well off the pace in the recent defeat to Newcastle, and Sunday's visit of a limited League One side provides the perfect opportunity for Terry to continue his rehabilitation.
There are equal reasons to either select and leave out Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill, as both have played plenty of games recently and both have their defensive foibles.
The Serbian has played more minutes than the Englishman all season, and he has also accrued three yellow cards to Cahill's one. So at the risk of Ivanovic picking up another booking and moving him closer to a suspension, I'd opt for Cahill, and that selection would also reacquaint two centre-backs who were first choice for Chelsea and England at the start of the season.
At left-back, I would persist with Ryan Bertrand. Ashley Cole has once again had a congested calender and with the return leg of the Prague game being quickly followed by a visit to Manchester City, I'd allow Cole an extended rest ahead of an important few months.
Bertrand looked much more assured playing in his natural defensive position against Prague, and the 23-year-old is arguably a better attacking asset than Cole. That added penetration would be more conducive than Cole's stability.
Midfield Base: Mikel and David Luiz
Give Mikel minutes
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John Obi Mikel has been out of the fold for eight weeks helping Nigeria to the African Cup of Nations title, so I'd let him find his feet against Brentford ahead of sterner tests.
In my article, "Why Ramires needs to be axed to make Chelsea a better team," I floated the idea of playing two genuine holding midfielders to provide a solid base for the side, allowing those further forward to roam with an insurance policy behind.
Making good on that theory, I'd pair Mikel with David Luiz. The Brazilian has only featured in one of the Blues' last five games but was again impressive in a midfield berth against Wigan last weekend.
I think the the two compliment each other effectively, with Mikel more inclined to drop anchor and therefore allowing Luiz licence to get involved going forward.
With Frank Lampard starting enough games recently. I'd allow the 34-year-old a cameo from the bench, at best, and ordinarily, I would suggest starting Oscar in a deeper role, but for this game I'd have him replacing Juan Mata as the central playmaker.
Creative Schemers: Marin, Moses, Oscar
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Given the volume of games Juan Mata has played over the past 18 months, I think he's due a breather, and resting the Spaniard would also allow Oscar a chance in his preferred position behind the striker.
The Brazilian has been Chelsea's cup specialist this year and his class could be too much for Uwe Rosler's men to cope with.
Flanking Oscar, I would go with Marko Marin and Victor Moses. Again, Eden Hazard has played virtually every game for Chelsea—even despite his recent suspension—and this game is one where he should be consigned to the bench in case of an emergency.
Marin has impressed in recent weeks and was one of the few bright spots from the midweek labour against Prague. The German still needs minutes after a disjointed first half of the season, and I wouldn't ruin his recent rhythm by leaving him out against Brentford.
I would also get Victor Moses back into the team for reasons similar to Mikel. The prospect of both Marin and Moses hugging either flank brings back memories of the Duff and Robben days when Chelsea attacked with plenty of pace and width down the sides.
Striker: Demba Ba
Bring Ba Back
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Not much explanation needed here.
The Senegalese striker is cup tied in the Europa League, meaning he missed out on Thursday and will not be required for Prague's visit in midweek.
Ba hasn't featured since departing at halftime against Newcastle, and I cannot think of a single reason why he shouldn't start against Brentford on Sunday.
Fernando Torres' pitiful form still gets him a game under Benitez and with a bit of luck, Ba will bag a couple of goals to reaffirm who the club's No. 1 striker is.