Revitalised Chelsea can go on another cup run

It may be languishing in ninth spot in the English Premier League table, but Chelsea has a happy knack of doing well in cup competitions.

On Wednesday morning, it hammered Middlesbrough 6-1 at home to advance to the League Cup final 6-2 on aggregate as Mauricio Pochettino chases his first silverware in England.

Chelsea will take on Liverpool in the League Cup final after the Reds defeated Fulham 3-2 on aggregate, following a 1-1 draw on Thursday morning.

But before that, it hosts high-flying Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup tomorrow morning (3.45am).

Villa is 12 points clear of Chelsea in the EPL but has only won two of its last five league games. In that time, the Blues have four victories.

Although it defeated Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September, Villa has a horrible away record in the FA Cup, winning only once – against Middlesbrough in the third round – since 2012.

Chelsea is unbeaten at home since Oct 28 but has seven players in the treatment room – Christopher Nkunku, Lesley Ugochukwu, Marc Cucurella, Robert Sanchez, Wesley Fofana, Romeo Lavia and Reece James.

Senegal’s Nicolas Jackson is also away at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), but Chelsea has a large squad to overcome their absence.

Villa’s Bertrand Traore is also at AFCON for Burkina Faso, while three players – Emiliano Buendia, Tyrone Mings and Lucas Digne – are injured. It hopes Pau Torres, Jacob Ramsey and Robin Olsen can return to the line-up after their injuries.

The other tie of the round sees Tottenham Hotspur welcoming Manchester City to London.

Tottenham, without a trophy since 2008, feels this could be the year to end that drought as Ange Postecoglou has brought the smiles back to the team after the boring style of Antonio Conte.

Despite losing captain Harry Kane to Bayern Munich in the summer, Tottenham has not felt his loss, even topping the EPL table early in the season.

After a mini-slump, it is back to winning ways and will pose a stiff challenge to City, which has welcomed back Kevin De Bruyne after a long injury layoff.

The Belgian midfield maestro scored on his return two weeks ago and is raring to go. With Erling Haaland returning to training after a short spell on the sidelines, City will be confident of reaching the fifth round.

FA Cup, 4th round (selected matches; Malaysian times)

SATURDAY
Chelsea vs Aston Villa (3.45am)
Bristol vs Nottingham Forest (3.45am)
Tottenham vs Manchester City (4am)
Sheffield United vs Brighton (11pm)
Everton vs Luton (11pm)

SUNDAY
Fulham vs Newcastle (3am)
West Brom vs Wolves (7.45pm)
Liverpool vs Norwich (10.30pm)

MONDAY
Newport County vs Manchester United (12.30am)

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