It’s up the M1 for the Blues to add a new opponent in an old competition. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton offer the fourth round facts and figures…
This weekend, while Michael van Gerwen is battling to retain his PDC Masters darts title, another Dutchman’s defence of the famous crown he lifted last time round continues next door at Stadium MK.
A year after Bradford’s FA Cup shock win at Stamford Bridge, 2009’s FA Cup-winning boss Guus Hiddink will be determined the lower league lightning does not strike twice.
Chelsea arrived at this stage by beating League One Scunthorpe 2-0 in round three, while our Championship opponents MK Dons needed a replay to see off League Two Northampton Town.
They have, though, won four or their last five games as hosts, and do not face a crucial midweek league fixture lurking in midweek, as the west Londoners do.
The Blues arrived buoyed by the bagging of six points from Arsenal with last Sunday’s fine 1-0 win, which completed the ‘double’ and was our 50th against them since November 1907.
Arsenal Wenger’s side have now recorded 616 gloriously goalless league minutes (including stoppage time) against the Blues – their longest barren spell ever against Premier League opposition – with the first league shutout at the Emirates since August. The Islingtonians have mustered just four shots on target in our last four league encounters.
Let us not be swept up in euphoria just yet, though. Few Premier League sides al-low opponents the space to play as do Wenger’s or even Roberto Martinez’s Everton. And having totally dominated for 75 minutes, a couple of avoidable goal-mouth bagatelles might easily have cost the Blues points.
Meanwhile Dons manager Karl Robinson was forthright about the lacklustre performance that led to their 1-3 Championship defeat at bottom club Bolton last Saturday. ‘We were embarrassed,’ he said, of a result that left MK two points away from a relegation slot. (Should results at the bottom go against them, the Dons will be in the relegation zone before this match kicks off.)
And although one bright spark in that loss was the performance of on-loan Jonny Williams, the versatile Welsh forward has already tasted home defeat by Chelsea – he was a late sub in our recent 3-0 thumping of his parent club Crystal Palace.
Robinson was also honest enough to admit his team were fortunate with penalty decisions in the previous round against Northampton, with initial contact on the first penalty being outside the box, and the second being awarded despite a fine low at-feet save by the visitors’ keeper. He knows the Buckinghamshire side will have go some to emulate Bradford’s success.
Although this is only the second time MK Dons have reached the FA Cup fourth round, it will be their 14th encounter with a Premier League side. Their biggest scalp to date was Louis van Gaal’s patchwork Manchester United team in last season’s Capital One Cup. (It was perhaps a measure of the performance in the 4-0 defeat that nine of the 14 Man United players involved that night have since either been sold or loaned out.)
Some Chelsea fans will have been contacted by former ‘Wombles’ encouraging the Blues to show no mercy on Sunday. Up until a decade ago there was great acrimony between the two rival heirs to the old Wimbledon throne: MK Dons, who bought the franchise and relocated from SW17 to MK1 in 2002, and phoenix club AFC Wimbledon who retained the south-west location, support base and children’s TV show nickname.
Then a historic accord, signed in 2006, between the Football Supporters Federation, Milton Keynes Dons FC, and the supporters’ associations of the two clubs, allowed MK to shed ties with the past, handing back ‘all physical patrimony of the former club’ to Merton council.
AFC’s planning application to rebuild a stadium in the same borough was approved in December. It was actually a young Chelsea XI who helped celebrate the opening of MK’s current stadium in July 2007.
Half of the 15,133 who watched the FA Cup round three replay this season against the Cobblers were Northampton supporters. It appears that the Blues’ third visit there at various levels (an U21 team won a friendly 2-1 last summer – pictured below) might establish a new record attendance for football at the ground. The current high of 26,969 was recorded for Manchester United’s visit in August 2014.
Should Sunday’s crowd eclipse that figure, it would add to the list of records set by a visit from Chelsea. In December 2003 our tussle with Reading at the Madejski Stadium drew a new high of 24,107, since beaten. At Cambridge, the attendance record is still 14,000 which was set at Chelsea's May 1970 visit for a friendly.
A new high for the City of Manchester Stadium of 47,304 spectators was set by the Blues’ visit in February 2004, long superseded. The record attendance at Sealand Road remains the 20,500 present for the January 1952 FA Cup round three replay against Chelsea, but hosts Chester no longer play there.
There are two current grounds where the record is still for a Blues’ visit. Anfield’s biggest ever league attendance remains the 58,757 present for a 2-2 draw with the Pensioners on 28 December 1949. More famously, on 3 September 1930 68,386 turned out at St James’ Park to see Newcastle’s former hero Hughie Gallacher return in a royal blue shirt.
Although MK are well known for nurturing Spurs’ much-feted midfielder Dele Alli, they have also boasted a fair few scions of former Blues in their ranks. Diego Poyet, a midfielder of the defensive variety (unlike father Gustavo), was recently on loan there, while left-back and skipper Dean Lewington is the son of Ray Wilkins’ mid-1970s midfield spar, Ray ‘Lew’. Goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock’s striker son Tom Hitchcock is also on the Buckinghamshire clubs’ books but has spent most of the season on loan at Stevenage.
If the scores are level after 90 minutes on Sunday, there will be a replay at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 10 February with a 7.45pm kick off.
For teams remaining in the competition, the draw for the FA Cup fifth round will be broadcast live on the BBC on Sunday at 6.15pm.
CHELSEA IN NUMBERS
Chelsea in the FA Cup
Winners: 1970, 1997, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012
Runners-up: 1915, 1967, 1994, 2002
Semi-finalists: 1911, 1920, 1932, 1950, 1952, 1965, 1966, 1996, 2006, 2013
The Blues are unbeaten in eight matches since the defeat at Leicester on 14 December.
Sunday's result at Arsenal secured successive away wins for the Blues for first time this season. The last occasion we won three on the road was in April last year.
The last time the Blues were beaten away in the FA Cup by a team in a lower division was in 2008 at Barnsley.
Frank Lampard is our all-time top scorer in the FA Cup with 26 goals.
Chelsea's last six results
Diego Costa 10, Willian 8, own goals 6, Oscar 5 (2 pens), Pedro 3, Ramires 3, Remy 3, Azpilicueta 2, Cahill 2, Fabregas 2, Zouma 2, Falcao 1, Ivanovic 1, Kenedy 1, Loftus-Cheek 1, Matic 1, Terry 1.
Chelsea's next three games
MK DONS IN NUMBERS
MK Dons in the FA Cup
Fifth round in 2012/13
Thirty-one-year-old captain Dean Lewington is MK Dons’ longest serving player and has made over 550 appearances.
Karl Robinson is the third longest-serving manager of the 92 league clubs behind Arsene Wenger and Exeter City’s Paul Tisdale. He will have been in charge for six years in May.
MK Dons are the second lowest scorers in the Championship with 23 goals in 28 matches. Only Charlton (22) have scored fewer.
Karl Robinson’s side have failed to score in 12 of their league games and scored more than one on four occasions.
The Dons have won seven, drawn five and lost 16 in the Championship this term and currently stand two points above the drop zone.
Head Coach Karl Robinson
Days in charge: 2,092
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
This weekend’s referee is Jon Moss. His only previous Blues encounter this season was the defeat at West Ham, and the last FA Cup game was our 2-2 draw at Brentford three years ago.
There are no suspensions.