If Scunthorpe had known about this tie at the start of the season, they would be a lot more intimidated than they are now.
Chelsea’s woes have been one of the surprise stories of the season, and Scunthorpe will fancy their chances of pulling off an upset against the underperforming Premier League champions. Stamford Bridge is the venue for a 2 o’clock Sunday kickoff.
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The home side have looked better since the departure of Jose Mourinho, having gone four games undefeated in the Premier League, but anything other than a smooth progression to the fourth round will be seen as a disaster.
The League One visiting side will be looking to exploit the instability at Chelsea and make the most of their visit to West London.
Chelsea’s confidence will have been helped by a bright start to the year, beating Crystal Palace 3-0 away.
One of the biggest problems for the home side heading into Sunday’s encounter is the absence of strikers, with two seemingly having a training ground bust up, as Oscar and Diego Costa came to blows.
They were jesting a bit after a charge from behind from the smaller of the two, Oscar. Costa took a charge from behind and it was overdone, especially when you know Oscar is not the biggest tackler of the team.
“They stumbled over the ground, stood up, as a normal reaction, they jested a bit, but we came in between them to say that there was no need to hit each other
Only Diego Costa is currently fit, with backup options Falcao and Remy out with groin and calf problems respectively.
It remains to be seen whether caretaker boss Gus Hiddink will play Costa, or rotate the team by playing someone out of position, or possibly featuring a youth player.
Chelsea’s XI is further weakened by the news that Eden Hazard will be unavailable following a minor injury incurred against Crystal Palace.
Chelsea have looked good as of late, although their season will reach a new low should they fail to beat Scunthorpe smoothly and decisively as Hiddink hopes that history will not repeat itself. He told ESPN:
I didn’t see it [the Bradford game], but I know you must not stumble again.
“I’m happy with the restart of the team.
“For me the next step is very important. That’s why after a win against a very difficult team, as Crystal Palace are, you have to follow up.
“In the upcoming games we have to show what we’re capable of.”
Scunthorpe will be hoping that leading scorer Paddy Madden overcomes a minor hamstring complaint in time to start against Chelsea.
It is likely that the visitors will give Madden the nod even if he is not at 100% fitness before the match. Scunthorpe’s League One performances have been hit and miss as of late, managing draws against Wigan and Rochdale and a win against Doncaster.
Cup ties such as this are an entirely different beast, and passion and desire will be strong factors in determining the victor.
Scunthorpe know the odds are stacked against them but will stay focused on causing an upset.
Despite their lack of depth at striker, it is hard to see Chelsea losing this one, although anything is possible. If there was ever a year for Chelsea to get turned over at home in the third round, this would be it.
It will be interesting to see the extent to which Hiddink is willing to gamble by resting usual starters in his XI for Sunday’s match.