Chelsea Preview - Away, Jan 3rd
Malky Mackay`s young charges head to Stamford Bridge on Saturday for their sternest test of the campaign to date. The Hornet`s have a tricky F.A Cup tie against Carlo Ancelotti`s faltering Chelsea outfit standing between them and the F.A Cup 4th round.
The Blues will be hit heavily by the African Cup of Nations which will see them robbed of talismanic forward Didier Drogba, powerful Ghanian central midfielder Michael Essien, his understudy; Jon Mikel Obi and Ivorian winger Saloman Kalou. Boss Carlo Ancelotti has gone on record to say he will place faith in young forwards Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge whilst Drogba and Kalou are away, but there`s still no doubting that the Blues will be weakened by the loss of their African contingent.
How strong a starting eleven Ancelotti will name is anyone`s guess, but it will be the former AC Milan boss` first taste of English F.A Cup action and he certainly won`t want to be humbled by his managerial counterpart at the first hurdle. There is a good chance that the likes of Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov, who have both missed good portions of the season through injury will get a runout whilst Petr Cech may not be risked following his drop in form and confidence.
Jose Bosingwa is out through injury meaning Paulo Ferreira or Juliano Belletti will make a rare start.
There is however bad news for the Hornet`s who will have to come up against Nic Anelka who has been passed fit for Sunday`s clash.
Chelsea still have no mean squad available to choose from though and the luxury will be afforded to Ancelotti over who to pick for the tie. The liklehood is that stalwarts such as Frank Lampard, John Terry, Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho and Nicholas Anelka will be given the nod to give the steel needed for a 'giants versus minnows` clash.
Watford have been able to extend the loan of young Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury who will now stay this side of the London Colney training ground divide until the end of the campaign.
Malky Mackay is still without Ross Jenkins so John Eustace and Lansbury will continue their impressive central midfielder partnership. The only selection headache for the Scot comes in who he will pick alongside Danny Graham. With Heidar Helguson`s loan now up Mackay will probably go with Will Hoskins as Nathan Ellington has now left for Greece.
Likely Chelsea XI
Ferreira Carvalho Terry (c) A.Cole
Likely Watford XI
Hodson Mariappa DeMerit (c) Doyley
Cowie Lansbury Eustace Cleverley
Referee: Mr Kevin Friend, Leicestershire