Kick-off: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 - 20:00 GMT
Ewood Park, Blackburn
Having comprehensively beaten Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday, Chelsea are proving an irresistible force at present. Victory over the Gunners signalled their ninth game unbeaten and cemented their tag as favourites for the Premier League title.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are currently chasing an unprecedented quadruple and while the League Cup will certainly not be at the top of the agenda, a quarter-final tie with Blackburn Rovers does represent a fantastic chance of progression.
Rovers have already been on the receiving end of a Chelsea hammering this season and Sam Allardyce’s side will hardly be relishing the visit of the in-form Blues. A draw and a defeat in their last two games has hardly been ideal preparation for a meeting with a side that has scored 28 goals in its last nine games and is seemingly taking no prisoners in its pursuit of absolute success.
That said, Blackburn will know that a morale-boosting triumph over Chelsea could turn around the fortunes of the Lancashire club and the League Cup would certainly become a realistic target if they could negotiate their way through to the semi-finals.
Unfortunately for Blackburn, it doesn’t look like Ancelotti will take a similar tact to that of Messrs Wenger and Ferguson as even though there may be a couple of youngsters involved, the Italian will likely send out a starting XI that is littered with established internationals.
28 Nov: Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Stoke City (Premier League)
25 Nov: Fulham 3-0 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League)
22 Nov: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League)
7 Nov: Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Portsmouth (Premier League)
31 Oct: Manchester United 2-0 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League)
29 Nov: Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea (Premier League)
25 Nov: Porto 0-1 Chelsea (Champions League)
21 Nov: Chelsea 4-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premier League)
8 Nov: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United (Premier League)
3 Nov: Atletico Madrid 2-2 Chelsea (Champions League)
Boss Sam Allardyce will not be present at the match on Wednesday as he continues to recover from heart surgery although he is expected to return to the dugout for Saturday’s meeting with Liverpool.
Young attacker Franco di Santo will definitely miss out as Chelsea will not allow Rovers to use the player that is currently on loan from Stamford Bridge.
Influential midfielder David Dunn, meanwhile, is a doubt with a calf problem.
Possible starting XI: Robinson; Samba, Givet, Nelson, Chimbonda; Gamst Pederson, Andrews, Nzonzi, Emerton, Diouf; Roberts.
Carlo Ancelotti will likely make a few changes to the side that looked so superior against Arsenal on Sunday with the likes of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard expected to be rested.
Ashley Cole is available having trained with the rest of the squad on Tuesday while the likes of Yuri Zhirkov, Michael Ballack, Salomon Kalou and Deco will all be pushing for a start.
Teenage midfielder Gael Kakuta could make his first start for the club while Daniel Sturridge (knee), Jose Bosingwa (knee) and Alex (hip) are all unavailable.
Possible starting XI: Hilario; Zhirkov, Terry, Ivanovic, Ferreira; Malouda, Mikel, Ballack, Deco, Joe Cole; Kalou.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Blackburn Rovers – Paul Robinson
It goes without saying really but if Blackburn are to salvage any sort of result from this meeting with Chelsea, their goalkeeper Paul Robinson is surely going to have to make a number of crucial saves.
With so much uncertainty surrounding who Fabio Capello may pick as England’s No.1, the door is undoubtedly still open for Robinson and a decent performance on Wednesday night will do his chances no harm whatsoever.
Chelsea – Joe Cole
Having only recently returned after a prolonged period on the sidelines with knee ligament damage, Cole has steadily started to reproduce the sort of quality that has him held in such high regard at Stamford Bridge.
The former West Ham United star will be desperate to play in each and every game for Chelsea for the remainder of the season and he will surely be pressing Ancelotti to give him the chance to showcase his array of talents in this League Cup quarter-final tie.
Blackburn face their first real test in the League Cup on Wednesday evening having thus far negotiated their way past lower league opposition comprising of Gillingham, Nottingham Forest and Peterborough United in the run-up to this fifth round encounter.
As much as the neutral will be desperate to see Allardyce’s charges pull off what would be a truly commendable result in knocking out Chelsea, the Blues should ultimately have too much in their locker, even with a few key names absent from the starting XI.
Blackburn Rovers 1-3 Chelsea
Stephen Darwin, Goal.com UK