Chelsea goes head to head with Scunthorpe United in the third round of FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
With an incessantly dipping form this season, Chelsea have no hopes of lifting the Premier League trophy, but getting their hands on the FA Cup can surely restore their lost pride to some extent. At least, on paper, it is a relatively easier task.
Chelsea and Scunthorpe have faced-off each other only once in the FA Cup so far, with the Blues claiming a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in January 2005. Though, the only thing favouring Guus Hiddink’s side today is the fact that no team has prevented Chelsea from 4th round qualification since last 17 seasons.
Here are the five key challenges they face before going into this match:
STRIKER ISSUE: Costa is the current leading scorer of the team with 6 goals in the season thus far, but the knockout stage will surely test his nerves. The Spaniard has a knack for creating goals out of nothing but this season has been a turn off for him. With Loic Remy out of favour and Radamal Falcao not firing, Chelsea faces a severe crisis in the attack, and the situation can prompt Hiddink to call up someone from the youth squad to fill the gap and provide assistance to Costa.
TACTICAL WEAKNESS: Statistically speaking, Southampton, West Ham, and the Spurs have created more chances than Chelsea this season across all competitions which indicate a tactical weakness. With a side failing to provide a strong backline and conceding more goals than scoring, it is essentially necessary to fix this issue before it gets any worse. Their negative goal difference of 3 in the Premier League is enough evidence for that. More creativity has to come from Chelsea players to cancel out their defensive errors.
SELECTION DILEMMA: Mourinho did try out hazard as a striker this season. One would question him, but he had to try out all of his options; even something as crazy as this. The truth of the matter is Chelsea are struggling to find the starting 11 that can gel together. Hiddink seems to have resolved this issue in the Premier League, but FA Cup is a different tournament. With injuries and lack of form, Hiddink has to pick wisely. It is worth mentioning that Hiddink won the 2009 FA Cup with Chelsea, but this time, it won’t be as easy as it was seven years ago.
SCUNTHORPE ARE UNDERDOGS: Chelsea have a history of not coping well with the underdogs and have lost almost embarrassingly to smaller teams this season as well. Scunthorpe manager, Mark Robins, has said, “We want to get through. So we are not going there with a defeatist attitude, that’s for sure.” The North Lincolnshire club currently sit 15th in their league and have nothing to lose. They will be ready to snatch any chance Chelsea willingly give them away.
REGROUP FOR GLORY: The ultimate challenge for Chelsea would be to get their heads right, attack and find their way back to glory. With all the talent pool, technical ability, and experience, the Blues can grab a thumping win. Big clubs like Chelsea only need a slight push to get back on normal terms provided they play as a unit.
However, all is not well at the Stamford Bridge, and the recent brawl between Costa and Oscar clearly indicates the state of affairs behind the curtains.
“They stumbled over the ground, stood up as a normal reaction, and then chested a bit without any further seriousness of the threat of punching or whatever”, Hiddink said.
It could either be a momentary rush of blood or some personal feuds, but it will do no good to the common cause. Chelsea needs to straighten themselves out on training grounds, locker rooms and on pitches to send out a message that they are the same team they were last year.
Hiddink and his men should look at it as a new beginning. If they can maintain a clean sheet and score a good amount of goals against a 3rd tier team, things are up for grabs.