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Jon Riley 5th Mar 2012 - 15:13

Frankly I fear, the players don't give a damn!

Birmingham v Chelsea - Tuesday 19:45 - live on ITV 1

Chelsea begin life without Andre Villas-Boas with a tough looking trip to Birmingham and newly promoted interim boss Roberto Di Matteo will hope he fares better in the West Midlands than his predecessor could at the weekend.

Indeed it was Saturday's 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion that sealed Villas-Boas' fate but in all honesty it had seemed for a while that it would be more ‘when' rather than ‘if' the former Porto man would leave the club. His controversial move to drop several senior members of the team for the club's Champions League tie away at Napoli backfired badly when the Italians came from behind to win 3-1. Prior to that, his team had to come from behind against Birmingham City of the Championship just to salvage an FA Cup replay, and here we are, St Andrews, Birmingham v Chelsea, but no AVB.

Birmingham themselves haven't enjoyed the best of form since the original tie at Stamford Bridge. A win, a draw and a defeat from their last three games has seen their hitherto fantastic march towards automatic promotion, hit something of a stumbling block. Many punters will believe that City's best chance of progressing in this tie was in the original game, where they led 1-0 and after Chelsea had missed a penalty. This time around, they can be backed at 4/1 to win in 90 minutes or 11/10 for the double chance of Birmingham or the draw.

The visitors are odds on at a price of 8/11. Now the departure of a manager usually has one of two effects on a team. Either, they come together and undergo a series of improved results OR they suffer a hangover and can lack leadership. With Chelsea I believe it will be the former. A number of the experienced stars of the squad seemed to lack belief in AVB and some would go as far as saying they had stopped trying for him. The likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are well known to hold a massive influence within the walls of Stamford Bridge, and will see this as an opportunity to lead the club once again.

The William Hill Match Winner for this fifth round replay is for the tie to go to penalties. Enhanced from 5/1 to 7/1, Birmingham may decide that defence is the best form of attack, they actually have the best home defence in the Championship, and if Chelsea cannot breach their backline then penalties could well be on the card.

17-year old Nathan Redmond (14/1 first scorer) has been impressive for the hosts this season, making the wide midfield position his own. He is expected to line up opposite loanee Erik Huseklepp with two of Marlon King (8/1), Nikola Zigic (9/1), Caleb Folan (9/1) and Adam Rooney (10/1) taking the starting roles up front.

It will be interesting to see what changes Roberto Di Matteo will make in his debut as Chelsea caretaker. Fernando Torres could be recalled to the starting eleven where only Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata can realistically hold their heads up and say they have given their all for the team this campaign. Torres can be backed at 4/1 to open the scoring with Sturridge 9/2.

In what could turn out to be Chelsea's most important game of the season, I can see them just sneaking past Birmingham. Frank Lampard may have suffered most under AVB but he has still claimed his fair share of goals and I'd back him at 11/2 to break the deadlock here. Scoreline wise, a tight 2-1 Chelsea win at 15/2 could be where the value lies.



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