Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez is looking to make changes for his side’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Brentford on Sunday, despite the competition now representing perhaps the best chance to claim some silverware this season.
Already out of contention in the Premier League and knocked out of the Champions League, Chelsea suffered a semifinal defeat in the Capital One Cup to Swansea on Wednesday. The FA Cup and the Europa League are now the only opportunities for Benitez to stake his claim to become permanent manager with a trophy.
But against League 1 side Brentford, the Spaniard has explained that he needs to keep his squad fresh.
“In terms of selection it has to be different, we do not want too many players playing too many games,” Benitez said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “We have played nine games a month, we have two in the African Cup of Nations, we do not have too many bodies, and we have to change the approach.
“If you play them too much they do not have the physical intensity. The players are a little tired.
“Sometimes with the quality you have you can win games if you are not 100 per cent fit. We have seen players rested and the game after were really good. We are playing too many games.”
Chelsea have been the dominant side in England’s premier cup competition in recent years, winning four times in the past six seasons.
Brentford’s record is far more modest and they will be attempting to achieve a spot in the last 16 for the first time in seven seasons. Uwe Rosler’s side are vying for promotion from England’s third tier, currently sitting in third spot. But their form has stuttered a little of late, with just one win in their last five league encounters.
Both sides will be missing players through suspension with Brentford without defender Jake Bidwell and Chelsea missing Eden Hazard following his much-discussed altercation with a ball boy at Swansea. Benitez may decide to give captain John Terry a first start since his return from injury.
D: Hodson, Craig, Dean, Barron
M: Forshaw, Douglas, Diagouraga
F: Forrester, Donaldson, Trotta
D: Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand
M: Luiz, Ramires
Marin, Oscar, Mata
Prediction: A likely altered Chelsea lineup may not have some initial difficulties against a Brentford side that have been strong at home this season. But Chelsea should ultimately have far too much quality and look likely to emerge with a comfortable victory.
Brentford 1-3 Chelsea
Where to watch: The FA Cup fourth-round encounter will kick-off from Griffin Park at 7 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available following the match on Fox Soccer 2Go.