Chelsea host Watford in the FA Cup Third Round this Saturday in the first match of the New Year, and indeed the new decade. Chelsea ended 2009 with a rather shaky December and will be looking to kick start 2010 with a strong January, beginning with this FA Cup tie.
Expect the likes of Gael Kakuta, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge to feature heavily as Chelsea are without Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel, all in Angola representing their respective national sides in the African Cup of Nations.
We may also see fringe players such as Paulo Ferreira and Juliano Belletti involved, with first team players rested before taking on the extra workload, caused by the absence of our African stars. Likewise, Hilario could be given the opportunity to keep his match sharpness up by replacing the rested Petr Cech.
Watford, only in the Premiership a few years ago, are currently languishing in thirteenth position in The Championship. They are win-less in their last four matches with their last victory coming on December 7 against QPR. A late John Eustace equaliser saw them steal a 2-2 draw at Bristol City in their last match, and promotion is now only a very distant dream for them.
Chelsea last played Watford in the FA Cup Fifth Round, back in February 09. It was Ray Wilkins’ only match in charge of Chelsea coming between the tenures of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink. Tamas Priskin gave Watford a shock lead, but Nicolas Anelka’s hat trick saw Chelsea through. Michael Mancienne made his debut that day, whilst Brendan Rogers was also Watford’s manager at the time.
Ladbrokes are offering unbackable odds of 1/8 for a Chelsea win, 11/2 a draw and a slightly tempting 12/1 for a shock Watford victory. However being the FA Cup, anything is possible.