There has been so much talk surrounding the transfer news at Chelsea this week that you could be forgiven for forgetting that there is a football match on Sunday. The Blues will be looking to continue their run of success in the FA Cup when they welcome Stoke City to Stamford Bridge.
The Potters beat Chelsea 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium just a few weeks ago, a fact that Jose Mourinho reminded everybody of in his pre-match press conference, via ChelseaFC.com:
We lost against them and it wasn't a long time ago. They are a difficult team; very physical, very direct, strong at set pieces and they will come to compete. I expect a difficult match, I will play with a strong team and not make big changes because we want to go as far as possible in the competition.
Branislav Ivanovic recovered from injury in time to face Manchester United last weekend, and it is likely that he will retain his place at right-back, via the injury report at ChelseaFC.com. Ashley Cole will return to the bench, with Cesar Azpilicueta taking his place at left-back. Gary Cahill and John Terry have proven to be Mourinho’s preferred pairing at centre-half and should keep their places for the visit of Stoke.
David Luiz had been deputising for Frank Lampard while the Englishman recovered from a muscle injury. Now that he is available again, Luiz will likely re-take his seat on the bench. Ramires is in line for a rest, and new signing Nemanja Matic could be given his full debut.
With Mourinho having said he will field a strong team for this match, it is likely that the trio behind the striker will remain the same. Eden Hazard and Willian will have to work hard up and down the wings, while Oscar’s tackling will be key to the result.
Fernando Torres will be out for up to a month with a knee injury, per the previous report, which increases the chances that Samuel Eto’o will keep his place in the starting XI. The 32-year-old’s hat-trick against Manchester United last week showed how good he is when space is at a premium, as it will likely be against Stoke.
Mourinho spoke earlier in the season about the affection he has for the FA Cup, via Jamie Reid of theFA.com.
The FA Cup has a special feeling, a special meaning. I was lucky to win lots of trophies but to win the FA Cup at Wembley - to go up there and to feel what it means was one of my high moments in my career so I have a very good feeling for the competition.
With all that has gone on this week, progress in the oldest domestic cup competition will be paramount to how Chelsea supporters view Mourinho’s second coming.