Paul Parker

FA Cup Chelsea’s only real shot at Silverware

Paul Parker

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Match of the weekend: Everton v Chelsea

Chelsea's win at Bolton in midweek has just about kept them in touch with the top three, but that doesn't suddenly make them championship contenders again.

The FA Cup represents Carlo Ancelotti's best chance of winning a trophy this season. Yes, Chelsea have landed the plum draw in the last 16 of the Champions League, but do they really look better equipped to go all the way in Europe than they did last season?

However, Everton will not make it easy for the current holders on Saturday, especially at Goodison Park, as they look to avenge defeat at Wembley two years ago.

Since Chelsea beat Everton in the 2009 final, they have drawn two and lost one match against David Moyes's side, who know how to raise their game against top opposition.

Deep down, Ancelotti will know that his hopes of retaining the league title have all but evaporated. That will not stop him going all out to try and close the 10-point gap on Manchester United but, more importantly, he also has to get some space between his team and Tottenham, who are also chasing that fourth and final Champions League spot.

Failure to qualify for the European Cup is, quite simply, not an option. Therefore, Ancelotti cannot afford to rotate too much in the league, meaning the FA Cup may be his only chance to give some of his top players a rest.

You can be sure that Everton will be ready and waiting to capitalise if the Blues come to Goodison with anything less than a full-strength side.

Upset of the weekend: West Ham United v Nottingham Forest

If you wanted to have a sly dig at West Ham you could say that this match will give them a taste of the Championship football they will playing every week next season, but the truth is a lot worse - these two sides could be swapping divisions come May.

Forest are looking good for a second successive play-off spot under Billy Davies, and they are on a great run of form, having only lost once since the end of October.

By contrast, West Ham are bottom of the Premier League, and it's only the poor performances of the teams immediately above them that has prevented them being cut adrift.

A lot hinges on how quickly new signings Gary O'Neil and Demba Ba settle into the team. They will have a much bigger say on the Hammers' fate than left-back Wayne Bridge.

Admittedly, their recent performances have been encouraging, but after their dramatic extra-time defeat against Birmingham in the Carling Cup this week, will they be able to rouse themselves for another demanding cup fixture?

Player to watch: United keeper

Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Edwin van der Sar will not be travelling to St Mary's for Saturday's evening kick-off, which means that one of his reserve keepers will be in action.

A lot will be read into his selection - whether he picks established number two Tomasz Kuszczak or gives Anders Lindegaard his debut.

The Southampton game could be a tough first game for Lindegaard. Under Nigel Adkins they have had a good season and boast a decent side that includes Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and the much-touted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

United's defence is already weakened by the absence of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Rafael da Silva, so the Dane could be in for a busier day than he might have hoped.

The back four in front of him will be made up of players who have not played too much football this year, and they will be facing a pretty prolific attack which plays together week in, week out.

Being on the receiving end of a Cup upset on your debut is bad enough for any player, but for a goalkeeper it would take some getting over.

However well he does, I am sure United will bring in another top keeper in the summer. I can't see Ferguson starting a new campaign without someone with lots of experience between the sticks.

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