It took Chelsea almost two and a half hours to edge ahead against League One opposition, but once they did, the writing was on the wall for plucky Brentford.
All in all, Uwe Rosler’s men can be proud of their endeavours over two cup ties against the European champions, but when all is said and done their stubborn resistance will count for very little.
Juan Mata’s moment of magic ten minutes into the second half finally took some wind from the Bees’ wings after matching their more illustrious west London neighbours for over three quarters of an elongated FA Cup fourth-round tie.
Further goals from Oscar, Frank Lampard and John Terry added a flattering touch for the Blues as they registered their second four-goal home haul in the space of a week.
The cup holders will now face a trip to Middlesbrough in the fifth round and should they overcome that task, then a ding-dong battle with Manchester United will await in the quarters (he says prematurely, hoping Reading will knock them out).
A combination of still needing to beat Boro and a probable visit to Old Trafford have put Chelsea on the drift in the outright winner market for the FA Cup, as Rafa Benitez’s side are 11/2 to retain their crown, with Everton 4/1, United 12/5 and Manchester City clear favourites at 8/5.
I can’t see Chelsea having much trouble on Teesside and certainly 11/25 for the win in 90 minutes reaffirms that theory, yet United will be odds-on should the two heavyweights collide a stage further.
The 11/2 price for Chelsea to win the FA Cup is partially that long because of the United obstacle but also because the Blues’ itinerary won’t aid their cause.
Should Chelsea see off Sparta Prague at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, they will likely meet Ajax in the last 16 of the Europa League.
The first leg of that tie will be played on Thursday, March 7th, with the United-Chelsea game (should it happen) pushed back to Sunday, March 10th.
That will mean a dreaded Thursday-Sunday combo for the Blues and with a second leg in Amsterdam to come the following Thursday, the potential United tie will sandwich two games against Ajax.
United will also conclude their Champions League contest against Real Madrid prior to the FA Cup fifth round slot but their clash with Los Galacticos comes on the Tuesday, allowing Sir Alex Ferguson’s men a further 48 hours to prepare for the meeting.
Taking all that into account, I’d leave Chelsea at 11/2 to win the FA Cup alone and instead focus attentions on them making a run on the Europa League.
Barring a disaster, the Prague tussle should be wrapped up and a shock first-leg capitulations by the likes of Napoli and Atletico Madrid have suddenly cleared a path for the reigning European champions.
With Napoli and Atletico facing elimination, Chelsea have been catapulted up to 19/4 Europa League favourites and I’d certainly jump on that before the prices tumble.
With Liverpool also looking like making a premature exit, there isn’t a great deal left in the competition for Chelsea to worry about.
Inter will be a tough ask and trips to Zenit St Petersburg, Rubin Kazan or Anzhi Makhachkala will be fancied by few, but see Ajax off and Chelsea will be in with a great shout of rounding off a disappointing season with some silverware.
My advice: snap the 19/4 up before it goes.
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