The holders’ defence of the FA Cup begins at home. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look at the start of a week of cup-tie football…
It is the fabled 12th day of Christmas on Saturday, the eve of Epiphany – twelve drummers drumming and all that. Nottingham Forest have sold out their 3,000 allocation at the Bridge, but will their Wembley dreams come down with the Christmas decorations?
Chelsea begin the defence of the trophy against the two-time winners with a traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off, but as a result of a new global TV signed deal by the FA starting this season, 22 of the 32 round-three matches will not. Games have been moved to 12.30pm, 2pm, 5.30pm, and 7.45pm time slots, spanning Friday to Monday, to suit the time zones of viewers overseas.
The Reds are the 14th team from outside the Premier League to visit the Bridge in round three of the FA Cup since January 2004. Chelsea reached the next round in each of the previous 13, winning 11, scoring 45 goals and conceding six.
However, Southend drew in SW6 in 2008/09, the Londoners winning the replay 4-1, and last season the much-changed Blues played Norwich in a replay. The Canaries took the game to extra-time with a last-second equaliser and survived a blatant penalty claim (controversially unreviewed by VAR) before the hosts, reduced to nine men by two red cards, won on penalties. The Blues went on to win the cup for the eighth time.
Chelsea are seeking to extend our unbeaten run in the FA Cup third round to 21 seasons.
— Key stat
This campaign could end in a third successive final appearance for the cup-holders, who are among 18 clubs to have reached the final over the past quarter-century. Forest last reached the final competition under the great Brian Clough in 1991.
This weekend’s adversaries last met in the top flight in February 1999, and have been on a different trajectory since then. Twice European Cup-winners in the late-1970s, the Midlands club were relegated at the end of that penultimate campaign of the century, and dropped to the third tier in 2005, just as Chelsea won the league for the second time in our history.
Under Colin Calderwood, Forest returned to the Championship in 2008 but the closest they have come to regaining Premier League status was 2010, when Blackpool beat them in a play-off semi-final.
In a few days’ time Aitor Karanka will have been in his post for a year. His team currently lie seventh in the Championship, four points adrift of the play-off places. They smashed the 10 men of league leaders Leeds 4-2 on New Year’s Day having not won any of their previous five matches.
The next league action for the Reds is a trip to relegation-threatened Reading – a match their coach will expect to win. With a week off in between he may not feel inclined to rest many players as some Championship sides do in this competition.
Chelsea have a growing injury list and the first leg of a Carabao Cup semi-final away to Tottenham on Tuesday to factor in.
Winners in the FA Cup this weekend will discover their round four pairings when the draw is made after Monday evening’s Wolves-Liverpool match live on BBC one.
There are several changes in the FA Cup this season. The FA issued new guidance in the summer stipulating that any yellow cards shown this season will be competition-specific and will not affect those accrued in the league.
As in the Europa League, however, a player who accumulates two cautions will miss the next game in the FA Cup, with an amnesty at the semi-final stage. Red cards are unaffected by the new rule.
From this season cards of both hues can be shown to coaching staff for misconduct committed in the technical area.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system will be trialled during some third ties, but not at Stamford Bridge this time around.
Match replays will not be played in round five of this year’s competition, with games concluding on the day after extra-time and penalties if required. The move is intended to relieve fixture congestion in February.
If the scores are level after 90 minutes this weekend, however, there will be a replay at City Ground on Tuesday 15 January, subject to TV selection.
The prize fund for this season’s competition was doubled a year ago, with the eventual winners scooping £3.6m.
Saturday’s visitors in the league, Newcastle, are at home in the cup to mid-table Championship club Blackburn on Saturday evening.
All tickets for Chelsea Women’s first Super League match of the season at home to Everton on Sunday have now been claimed. Kingsmeadow will be a full house of over 3,000; the average WSL attendance last season was just over 1,000. Click for news of a lucky seat half-time draw.
Joe Edwards’ Under-21s take on Peterborough, seventh in League One, in the last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, a 7pm kick-off. Tickets priced at £5, £3 concessions, can be bought here.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Into the hat for round four of the FA Cup for the 72nd time in our history.
FA Cup third round fixtures featuring Premier League sides
Tranmere v Tottenham 7.45pm - BT Sport
Bournemouth v Brighton 12.30pm
Burnley v Barnsley 12.30pm
Manchester United v Reading 12.30pm - BT Sport
West Ham v Birmingham 12.30pm
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest 3pm
Derby v Southampton 3pm
Everton v Lincoln 3pm
Gillingham v Cardiff 3pm
Blackpool v Arsenal 5.30pm - BT Sport
Bristol City v Huddersfield 5.30pm
Crystal Palace v Grimsby 5.30pm
Newcastle v Blackburn 5.30pm
Fulham v Oldham 2pm
Manchester City v Rotherham 2pm
Woking v Watford 2pm - BT Sport
Newport v Leicester 4.30pm - BBC One
Wolves v Liverpool 7.45pm - BBC One