Chelsea begin the post Andre Villas-Boas era with a tricky FA Cup fifth round replay away to Championship side Birmingham Tuesday night as Ladbrokes make Chris Hughton’s side more than a touch of value at 5/1.
Owner Roman Abramovich finally decided to bring an end to the Portuguese’s time in charge at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, following his side’s dismal 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion just the day before.
The decision to sack Villas-Boas has draw much criticism from those within the game as well as the media.
But given Abramovich’s ruthless record with managers down the years, few will consider the Russian billionaire’s decision to be a surprise, considering Chelsea’s recent form.
In the short-term, the decision to relieve Villas-Boas of his duties may pay dividends for the West Londoners, with Roberto Di Matteo taking charge until the end of the season, and no doubt looking for a reaction from his players.
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The former MK Dons and West Brom manager will have a tough job on his hands, as he looks to regain the control of the dressing room that Villas-Boas reportedly lost.
Stories of players forming factions behind the managers back and some of the senior stars reportedly not backing his project all led to his demise.
As for Birmingham, they could be without Irishman Keith Fahey who is an injury doubt for the game but could replace Erik Huseklepp if he is available.
Stephen Carr will definitely miss the game, with Steven Caldwell and Curtis Davies the likely central defensive pairing for the game.
Chelsea have no new injury worries going into the game, with Raul Meireles expected to return to the side having only been on the bench for the West Brom game. Frank Lampard could retain his starting place.
If Chelsea lose to Birmingham, it will effectively bring an end to any hopes they might have had of silverware this season with the league now seemingly beyond them, and a massive challenge to overturn their two goal deficit to Napoli in the Champions’ League.
Birmingham will relish the pressure Chelsea are under and, after the excellent 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, look to complete this FA Cup shock in front of their home fans.