As a host of Championship clubs take on Premier League opponents in this FA Cup 4th round of matches, two clubs who have been struggling for form in their respective leagues take each other on. Milton Keynes Dons and Chelsea couldn’t be further apart in terms of quality of personnel, but it all goes out of the window when it comes to a cup game.
This could be a classic case of giantkilling if the result goes in favour of the home side. Chelsea, with their multimillionaire world-class footballers would be expected to romp home, but the quiet working-class city of Milton Keynes could spring a surprise or two for them – especially because of the Dons’ home form.
Karl Robinson vs Guus Hiddink
Goes without saying, but this is the first time these two managers are meeting head to head. On paper, this is a mismatch of epic proportions. One a former player who was appointed the manager of his club at the time in League One at 29 years of age, while the other a well-traveled manager who has coached the likes of Real Madrid, the Dutch national team and PSV Eindhoven.
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Robinson will look to shock Chelsea from the outset
As lower league teams do, the Dons will be counting on their home form and most importantly their home crowd to spur them on — perhaps even drawing inspiration from their manager’s commitment to the club and its future.
Still one of the youngest first team coaches around, the Liverpool-born Robinson is the cynosure of the Dons’ fans eyes. When the team was struggling in League One during his initial days as boss, he reportedly rejected an offer from Championship side Blackpool in order to continue his project at Stadium mk. A loyal, hardworking and determined man off the pitch, he continues to build his side to ultimately play in the Premier League.
In reality, however, we know that football can be a cruel mistress. A believer in possession-based football, the tactic could come back to haunt the Dons. Chelsea’s quick movement off the ball and a quicker counter attack could cripple the home side — just one of the many things Robinson and his men have to worry about.
New boss, old Chelsea
It seems that a new life has been breathed into the Blues’ players. With a manager who does not make the headlines every other week but is quiet and understated, the players have gone on to express themselves better than they have anytime this season.
Whether it is Hiddink or the absence of Jose Mourinho that has done the trick is a subject for a longer analysis and a separate piece. The current atmosphere, however, is what the Chelsea fans hoped to see under Mourinho. The old Chelsea – quick start, taking the lead, keeping possession and winning – were back in the game against Arsenal.
The formbooks will tell you that this should be an easy day out for Chelsea. Anything other than the “magic of the FA Cup” cannot prevent them from winning and advancing. With the way things are in the league at the moment, this tournament is realistically the one trophy they could hope to win. To do that, though, they will have to overcome a “cold, wet evening in Milton Keynes”. Can the superstars of Chelsea do it?
Dean Lewington vs Willian
Widely considered a club hero, Lewington could be in for the toughest 90 minutes of his career so far. He will face Chelsea’s most in-form player this season and hope to come out of it unscathed.
Having been at the club since its formation in 2004, the Englishman will take on Chelsea’s leading goalscorer from his position as left back. Apart from the Brazilian, the likes of Branislav Ivanovic could also be bombing up and down the pitch in that area – an additional headache for the defence.
On the other hand, both the Brazilian and the Serb will have to be wary of Lewington, since he has an attacking instinct too.
Josh Murphy vs Kurt Zouma/ Gary Cahill
MK Dons’ leading goalscorer this season, Murphy, will look to trouble the centre-back pairing of Chelsea.
His 4 goals and 3 assists this season surpass any of his teammates by a long margin, perhaps also explaining why they are struggling this season to score goals. An attacking midfielder by trade, the loanee from Norwich will look to put one over his much-decorated adversaries. Whether it will be Zouma or Cahill, they will have to keep an eye out for this England under-20 international.
While Cahill has been struggling for form this season, his French colleague has been on a roll – relatively speaking. Chelsea boast of one the worst defences in the Premier League this season, perhaps the reason being a lack of first-choice central defensive pair. The Englishman may be given the opportunity in this game ahead of Zouma who has been playing non-stop in the League.
Milton Keynes Dons
- An excellent team-ethic led by manager Karl Robinson.
- Keeping the ball – they practice a possession-based approach which could prove to be useful.
- Protecting a lead – possession-based football often brings out this side of a team. Once they do get a lead, they are difficult to beat..
- Finishing chances – at an average of 12 shots taken per game, their poor return of 23 goals in 28 games so far is a worrying factor for the fans.
- Aerial weakness – against the likes of Diego Costa, Zouma or John Terry this could prove to be their downfall.
- Defending against dribblers – a direct consequence of them being in the lower leagues for so long is that when they face Premier League opponents and its class players, they struggle to keep them out.
- Strong counter-attack play has always been one of their major strengths over the years.
- Defending set-pieces has been a major success story this season for Chelsea.
- Attacking down the wings – with the class of Willian and Eden Hazard bombing down the wings, Chelsea are irresistible to watch when they are on song.
- Defending against attack from the wings.
- Protecting a lead is something that they haven’t done well so far this season. Only Aston Villa have lost more matches than Chelsea after taking a lead..
- Stopping shots on targets – it is quite simple really, stopping shots on targets directly translates to fewer goals conceded which has been the problem for them this season.
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