IVANOVIC: STILL SPECIAL
Andre Villas-Boas takes his side across London for an FA Cup fourth round tie with Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, and while supporters will be looking to claim local bragging rights, Branislav Ivanovic has reaffirmed the squad's collective desire to win the competition.
After a league encounter at Loftus Road back in October where we were beaten 1-0 and had both Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba dismissed, the team will be very keen to secure a place in the fifth round by getting the better of a side now managed by former Stamford Bridge favourite Mark Hughes.
A 4-0 win against Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge in the third round ensured our comfortable progression, and with a fantastic pedigree in the competition in recent years, including three successes since 2007, Ivanovic insists the competition is very much at the forefront of the players' attentions.
'The FA Cup is very important,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'It's a competition with the biggest history in the world and every player respects that and wants to win it. It's a good trophy to have in your collection.
'Of course, nowadays the league and Champions League are hugely significant, but the players certainly take the FA Cup very seriously, as we have proved, and it's a competition we want to win.'
The FA Cup final has for many years been one of the most popular matches of the season in terms of viewing figures, not just in this country but the world over, with less emphasis being placed on domestic cup competitions in countries such as Italy, Spain and Germany.
Interestingly, however, Ivanovic believes that the importance of the cup final back in his home country of Serbia is one of the few around the globe that can match that of the FA Cup in England.
'I sometimes watched the FA Cup as a youngster, but in my country our own domestic cup competition is also very important, just like the FA Cup is over here,' he says.
'The FA Cup in this country is only marginally placed behind the league in terms of prestige, the supporters care about it a lot, and this gives a special feeling in matches. When the smaller teams play against a bigger side and show a lot of heart, supporters can relate to that.'
With a number of the better sides still left in the tournament being drawn against each other, a win against QPR would ensure we have a good opportunity to make a third final appearance in four years.
Ivanovic has been part of a squad that has experienced the joy of going all the way in the competition on two occasions so he is spoilt for choice when recalling his favourite memories from the competition, but when pressed, he plumps for the most recent final when he was a member of the team on the Wembley pitch.
'Obviously the two finals against Everton and Portsmouth stand out,' he said. 'But the win against Portsmouth enabled us to win the Double for the first time so that was very special.'
Supporters attending Saturday's match are asked to note that no alcohol will be on sale in the away fans' section at Loftus Road.