Chelsea start their 2014 FA Cup campaign with a trip to Derby County on January 5. The Blues have enjoyed a great amount of success in the FA Cup since the mid-'90s and Jose Mourinho holds the competition close to his heart. The Special One told chelseafc.com:
As a kid, in the time of black and white television, day after day, the English Cup final was one of the few matches I was waiting with my father and with some friends to see. I have some memories of this fantastic feeling and of some smaller teams playing the final against some big clubs and always giving a real fight.
Although there will certainly be some changes to the XI that won 3-0 at Southampton, Chelsea’s strength in depth means there is no chance of them starting with a “weak” lineup.
Petr Cech could be given a rest after equalling Peter Bonetti’s record of 208 clean sheets for Chelsea. Mark Schwarzer started the Capital One Cup ties and is the most likely candidate to replace Cech between the sticks.
Branislav Ivanovic is out injured until the end of January having picked up some ligament damage in the 2-1 victory over Liverpool. Cesar Azpilicueta will take his place at right-back, with Ashley Cole retaining his place at left-back. Gary Cahill and John Terry have formed a formidable partnership at centre-half and will likely keep their places for this first cup game.
Although Mourinho said in December that he would not play David Luiz in a defensive midfield position (per the Guardian), the Brazilian was selected there for the win over Liverpool. His performance was as enthusiastic as usual, and with the back four behind him he had more freedom to roam. With Frank Lampard out injured, we could see a Brazilian holding pair of Luiz and Ramires at Pride Park.
I keep saying I want him to stay. There have been no offers. Today he trained in a fantastic way so I think he focused more on [when I said] "I don't want him to leave" and not on when I said "the door is always open.” He's moved on. He was happy with the victory at Southampton so today he trained in a fantastic way. There are no problems.
Mata has tasted success in the FA Cup before, and he understands the importance of the competition. He will likely be joined in the attacking trio by Andre Schurrle and the in-form Willian.
The £30 million Brazilian has settled into the pace of English football well, and his work in both defensive and offensive positions against Liverpool in particular showed his class.
Fernando Torres will likely lead the line, having nicked the opening goal against Southampton. Although he is yet to fully hit the stride he is capable of, his attitude and work-rate is improving with every game, and it seems as though his fragile confidence is gradually being restored.
The magic of the cup means that Mourinho will pick the best team to get a result at Pride Park, as he told chelseafc.com:
The next game after Derby is Hull next weekend, we don't have a game two days after. So we can have a day off on Monday and come back on Tuesday and prepare to play Saturday against Hull, so Derby is the last game of this crazy period and after that things come back to normality for a couple of weeks and I think the players are also keen to go with a strong side and tell our opponent we are going there with the maximum respect. Do we lose, do we win, who knows, but at least the message is we respect Derby and we go there with the best possible team.