Chelsea could call on Drogba; Liverpool hosts Barnsley
Chelsea isn't about to let up in its defense of the FA Cup even though it is playing lowly Huddersfield on Saturday. Midfielder Frank Lampard was back in action last weekend after six weeks out with a thigh injury, and could be joined against the League One side by Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien, who have all returned from the African Cup of Nations.
With just six Premier League teams having made it through to the fifth round of England's most prestigious knockout competition _ including Manchester United and Arsenal, which meet at Old Trafford on Saturday _ Huddersfield's visit to Stamford Bridge is one of several apparent mismatches.
Liverpool hosts Barnsley on Saturday, while Portsmouth is at Preston and Middlesbrough is at Sheffield United on Sunday. But the biggest disparity could be in west London. Chelsea is third in the Premier League and still has a chance of winning four titles this season, while the Terriers are 15th in the third tier.
The Blues are unbeaten in 14 games even without its key quartet at the African Cup and the likes of Lampard, Andriy Shevchenko and John Terry injured, which bodes ill for Huddersfield. "I feel very fresh and ready to go," said Lampard, who returned for a 0-0 draw against Liverpool. "When I came back from my first injury, I played some of my best football, so hopefully I can do that again.
"We've got a few players in the same boat who have had that break. The players that have been out for that long can add freshness, and add that little bit of hunger at the end of season, which can help us."
Drogba scored five goals in 11 Premier League matches _ and four in four Champions League games _ before joining the Ivory Coast squad in Ghana, where he scored three times in four games to help his country to the semifinals.
But Huddersfield did manage to compete with Chelsea the last time the teams met in 2006, only losing a third-round FA Cup match 2-1 to an 82nd-minute goal, and beat an under-strength side 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup in 1999.
Huddersfield also beat Premier League club Birmingham 2-1 in this year's third round, but knows it faces a tougher match this time. "It will be an excellent chance for our players to test themselves against the best players in the country, if not the world," Huddersfield manager Andy Ritchie said. "We limited the amount we watched Chelsea as we didn't want to scare ourselves." Liverpool is 19 points behind league leader Arsenal and knows the FA Cup represents its best hope of a trophy this season, making a match against League Championship side Barnsley welcome. Fernando Torres, Sami Hyypia, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio have all recovered from injury, but manager Rafa Benitez may decide to leave some of them out to make sure they are fit to face Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday.
"It could be too much of a risk to play Fernando against Barnsley," Benitez said. "Every player is important to us, but Torres has been scoring goals so we have to be careful." Arsenal and Manchester United meet in the FA Cup for the first time since the 2005 final, which Arsenal won on a penalty shootout. While any win over a major rival is important and both teams want to take another step toward the trophy, the sides know the game could affect all the major competitions.
They occupy the top two places in the Premier League and are both in the Champions League.
"We want to play well in every competition whether it's the FA Cup, the Champions League or the league," Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby said. "We want to win all of them because we are a big club and we want to win trophies. This Saturday is very important to us. "Maybe a win will give us a psychological advantage."
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