by Ian Winrow
LONDON: – John Terry expects Chelsea to recover from their New Year’s day mauling at Tottenham when Watford visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
The 5-3 loss at White Hart Lane was as painful as it was unexpected and the visit of a side battling to get out of the Championship should provide an opportunity for Jose Mourinho’s shell-shocked players to recover their confidence.
It will be a major surprise if the Premier League leaders stumble against a team led by former Chelsea midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic, the fourth manager to take charge of the Hornets this season.
Chelsea haven’t needed to rely too much on luck in the FA Cup in recent seasons, but if Mourinho’s side are looking for omens, the pairing with Watford should provide a lift.
The club have paraded the trophy four times in the last eight years, the first of those victories — in 2007 — marked the first final played at the new Wembley and Mourinho’s one and only success in the competition.
Following that win, the west London club virtually took up residency at Wembley, triumphing in 2009, 2010 and 2012, twice facing Watford on the road to success during the first two of those campaigns.
More memorably for some Blues supporters, Dave Sexton’s side crushed Watford 5-1 in the semi-final in 1970 en route to winning the trophy in a famously brutal final and subsequent replay against Leeds.
– Confident Terry –
Eyes will be fixed firmly forward, though after the Spurs loss that allowed Manchester City to move level on points at the top of the Premier League table and quietened claims Mourinho’s team could complete a clean sweep of honours this season.
Chelsea captain Terry is confident of a morale-boosting win on Sunday and he said: “We’re very disappointed to start the New Year with a defeat but we’ll move on from this.
“It’s hard to see them (City) claw us back. We were eight points in front and now we’re level on points.
“It’s disappointing to have lost that lead but we said in the dressing room we’ll come together, put a run together and hopefully get a lead again.”
The Spurs defeat suggested some of Mourinho’s players are starting to feel the strain of the busy festive period and the manager is likely to be tempted to make changes for the visit of Watford.
Keeper Thibaut Courtois has a finger injury so he could be replaced by Petr Cech and Mourinho may use the opportunity to rest Diego Costa and Eden Hazard.
Watford have largely maintained steady progress this season despite the upheavals in the dug-out and currently lie fifth in the Championship.
Promotion to the Premier League is the priority but an impressive display at Stamford Bridge will boost confidence and carry added significance for Jokanovic who spent two years as a player at Chelsea over a decade ago.
Watford midfielder Daniel Tozser said: “Chelsea at the moment are in the top five teams in Europe. But it will be a pleasure for the guys to play against a team like this.
“We have nothing to be afraid of, nothing to lose. This is a game we have to enjoy, to show and to see where we are at the moment.
“This is a game where we can show to our supporters that we have ambition. We want to play against these teams.
“The biggest mistake we can make is not to lose the game, or make a mistake – it’s a part of football, especially against a team like this.
“If we really want to show what we can do, we must not be afraid.”