Chelsea will attempt to revive their season without Eden Hazard when they make the short journey across west London to third-tier Brentford in the fourth round of the FA Cup today.
Hazard was suspended after being dismissed during the Chelsea’s League Cup semi-final exit at Swansea on Wednesday when he appeared to kick a ballboy and faces further action after the FA charged the Belgian midfielder with violent conduct.
The incident overshadowed Chelsea’s failure to beat Michael Laudrup’s side and the build-up to their potentially testing clash at Griffin Park.
A second successive defeat would leave the Europa League as the Blues’ only realistic chance of silverware this season.
Hazard’s absence could hardly have come at a worse time with the deposed European champions’ stretched squad anxious to address the problems in front of goal that have stalled their efforts since the turn of the year.
“It was disappointing because we didn’t score against Swansea,” said Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. “We knew that we had to score to have a chance to progress, but we didn’t and it is a pity.”
“Even when we played our game in hand in the league against Southampton, instead of killing the game off [when 2-0 ahead] we played on and on and they managed to score two goals,” he said.
“I think we need to be more efficient in front of goal because we are having chances. We have a lot of shots in the games, but we need to score more goals than that,” Cech said.
David Luiz will be missing today after suffering a recurrence of an ankle injury, but captain John Terry is nearing a return to full fitness and could start.
“It will be a tough game, it’s a massive game for them and they will be pushing, playing between long and short passes and they try to win second balls,” Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez said.
“They’re an interesting team and doing well,” he said. “Obviously we play away, and it’s a cup competition. The pitch is not the best, totally different, but it’s a game we play against a close team which will be a massive motivation for them too.”
Griffin Park is just 11km away from Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground, but this will be the first competitive meeting between the two clubs for 63 years.
Uwe Rosler’s side are currently third in League One, six points off an automatic promotion place, and he believes Chelsea’s current troubles won’t do Brentford any favors.
“A club like Chelsea have to win titles every year and that will make it even harder for us,” Rosler said. “The FA Cup is realistically the one big trophy they can win this season.”
“It would have been better for us if they were heavily involved in the Champions League and it would have been also good if they had a realistic chance in the title race,” he said.
“We are realistic, our chances are not very high, but we want to cause an upset,” Rosler said. “This group of players have surprised me many times and they are growing very fast. I would not be surprised if we give Chelsea a real go.”
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