FA Cup preview – Middlesbrough v Chelsea
The line-up for the FA Cup quarter-finals – or Sixth Round as it’s more perplexingly known – has almost taken shape, as Chelsea finally catch up with their busy schedules to face a flagging Middlesbrough which has won only one league match in nine, resulting in a drop out of the Championship play-off places.
February 27th, 2013
Following the Blues’ 2-0 defeat at Man City, Rafael Benitez – who officially dropped into the red on the ‘Has Rafa Been Sacked’ Twitter account at the weekend – dispelled rumours of a dressing-room bust-up with players, claiming to have had “a normal meeting between players and technical staff, which happens after every game.” It’s expected by sneering pundits and frustrated fans alike that more of these rational discussions will result in Rafa losing his job before the end of the season; but with two trophies still to play for, the veteran manager could yet have the last quality chuckle.
Middlesbrough have some injury worries to contend with, as well as some ineligible players; the trio of new loan signing Sammy Ameobi, Kieron Dyer and Josh McEachran will all miss out through being cup-tied, while Jonathan Woodgate and Lukas Jutkewicz have picked up injuries. Julio Arca, Stuart Parnaby and Justin Hoyte remain unavailable for the same reason.
For the Blues, a leg injury for Cesar Azpilicueta means he’ll also be unable to play – meaning a probable start for the rested John Terry – while Gary Cahill has caught a virus.
This fixture is best historically remembered as a rematch of the 1997 FA Cup final, where Middlesbrough famously reached (and lost) a cup final, and were relegated in the same season. Loyal Chelsea servant and Champions League-winning coach Roberto Di Matteo scored only 43 seconds after kick-off in that game; Boro will certainly hope for a much better showing on this occasion; if only to boost morale ahead of the play-off run in.