After ending 2012 in explosive fashion, Chelsea began the new year with all the fizz of a leftover glass of Cava with a fag butt floating in it.
Prior to the singing of Auld Lang Syne, the Blues were in arguably their best form of the season, having come back from Japan to chalk up four successive wins, scoring 16 times in the process.
The goalfests against Leeds and Aston Villa were cemented with solid results at Norwich and Everton, and Rafa Benitez looked to be – if not winning round – finally shutting up many of his internal detractors. Then came QPR.
Chelsea were awful. Fingers were pointed at Benitez for resting Juan Mata and Eden Hazard but even still, they put out a team that were more than capable of seeing off the shambles from Shepherd’s Bush.
QPR weren’t even very good. In fact, they were only slightly less bad than the Blues, who lacked any of the the coherence demonstrated in their last few games.
David Luiz was even more chaotic in midfield than in defence and I must have missed the news that a statue of Fernando Torres had been commissioned in either penalty box at Stamford Bridge.
At the beginning of the campaign, Chelsea had the potential to collect as many as seven different pieces of silverware.
Already three of them have gone – with the Premier League a pipe dream – and despite the unwelcome addition of the Europa League, nobody at Stamford Bridge can countenance another competition slipping woefully from their grasp.
Chelsea’s dismal surrender of their Champions League crown was hard enough to take for Blues fans, but even that will be put into the shade if they suffer the ignominy of losing their FA Cup title at the first hurdle.
Third-round ties are rarely must win games, but Chelsea’s visit to Southampton on Saturday afternoon surely falls into this category.
With just two defeats in their last ten and only one loss in six at home, the Saints have recovered well from an inauspicious start to their return to the big time.
Although last time out against Arsenal I correctly picked the 29/10 draw, Nigel Adkins’ men were thoroughly unlucky not to claim the full haul and I reckon the west Londoners will be in for just as tough a time.
The odds are similarly priced to the game against the Gunners, with the visitors 31/50 for the win, the draw at 13/5 and Southampton 18/5.
Given their performance against Arsenal, I reckon Southampton will be in this all the way and anyone fancying them to get something can make good money on the 23/20 double chance.
But this being the FA Cup, I’m going to stick my neck out and go for glory and I reckon that Chelsea’s overall quality will just about shine through.
With Mata and Hazard likely to return and new boy Demba Ba – whose potential impact at the club we assess here – thrown in for good measure, I can see Chelsea just outscoring the Saints and you can almost treble your money at 9/5 on Chelsea winning with under 3.5 goals in the game.
The 2-1 Chelsea triumph is also well worth a look at 7/1, which would return a tidy £160 for new bwin customers successfully backing it with their free £20 bet after registering.
Looking a little further down the line, Chelsea are 6/1 joint-second favourites to go all the way and win the FA Cup for the fifth time in seven years and if you want a punt on the Blues to carry on that tradition, then jump on now as that price is only likely to get shorter.
Southampton are a massive 80/1, with Manchester City the current 9/2 favourites to lift the famous old pot in May.
Top bet: Chelsea to win a game of under 3.5 goals @ 9/5