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Chelsea will be wary of Chicharito, but expect this one to go to a replay
The tie of the round, as Manchester United—fresh from their Champions League exploits against Real Madrid—take on an extremely unstable and erratic Chelsea outfit.
This game has all of the precedents in place to become a real fiery encounter.
Benitez’s "rant" following his sides victory at Middlesborough has stirred up what is already a volatile situation at Chelsea, whilst the Spanish chiefs relationship with opposition boss Sir Alex Ferguson could only be described as turbulent at best. The subplots and connotations run right through this one.
You get the impression that the "rant" will go one of two ways for Benitez. His players will either rally behind him and put in a performance. Or he will have lost the dressing room completely, resulting in a collapse in their already inconsistent form.
As for their opposition, Manchester United’s priorities certainly lie elsewhere at the minute, with the Champions League and Premier League titles still to play for. But there have been murmurings that United are serious about the treble again. So the FA Cup must not be taken lightly by the Red Devils.
Alex Ferguson will rotate his squad for this one, but for Chelsea, that could mean a return for Chicharito Hernandez, a player who has fared especially well as of late against the men from the Kings Road. He always seems to score against Chelsea and has already netted twice against them in two outings this season.
It’ll be interesting to see how seriously Chelsea approach this one. Finishing in the top four looks to be their priority, but they still have two pieces of silverware to fight for in the form of the FA Cup and the Europa League. Do they have the squad to carry the fight on all three fronts?
Possibly. But Chelsea’s line-up in this one will reveal a lot about their priorities going forward. Although they will be itching to do well in a competition which has brought them unprecedented success down the years.
Ashley Cole will be looking for an unprecedented eight winners medal in this competition, whilst Frank Lampard and John Terry both have the chance of picking up a fifth.
With both teams likely to make changes for the game and with United weary from their Champions League battles, this one will go to a replay.
Verdict: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea