Even earlier today, Andre Villas-Boas has admitted that some of his senior players are not behin him, but he still go the support of Chelsea’s owner to continue with his three year project and will proceed in his transition from the Old Chealsea to the New Chealsea
Ramires and John Mikel Obi return to the midfield with Michael Essien and Frank Lampard making way.
Gary Cahill will play his second game with Branislav Ivanovic back at right-back. Ryan Bertrand is left-back.
The front three are unchanged for a sixth game running while back from Africa, Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba are back on the bench.
Birmingham however, are not to be undermined as they just went through 13 games undefeated in all competitions including the defeat of Wolves in the previous FA CUP
Chelsea starting lineup vs Birmingham City 2012:- Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand, Ramires, Mikel, Meireles, Sturridge, Torres, Mata
Birmingham City starting lineup v Chelsea FA Cup 2012:- Doyle, Carr, Davies, Ibanez, Murphy, Redmond, Fahey, Mutch, Elliott, Gomis, Rooney
First the visitors took the lead. Having won a corner, it was played into the near-post area where Cahill couldn’t clear it. Ivanovic also missed the chance to make contact which left David Murphy in space to drill the ball home from close range. That was the first shot of the game from either side and it had inflicted a blow to Chelsea confidence.
The chance to slap the Championship side back down came just two minutes later when an unnecessary and clumsy challenge by Wade Elliott tripped Ramires in a crowded penalty area.
Mata, who scored with his previous Chelsea penalty, was the obvious choice to take it with Lampard and Drogba on the bench but his low shot was tipped onto the post and was then cleared. It was a good save by Colin Doyle and did nothing for Chelsea belief.
On 25 minutes Sturridge was not far away from finding Torres with a centre but Curtis Davies made it his. Chelsea remained on top for the rest of half but without creating enough chances.
David Luiz showed much needed enterprise in carrying the ball from halfway towards the Birmingham goal until David Mutch brought him down at the expense of a yellow card. The Brazilian took the free-kick himself and bent the ball up and down sharply over the wall but Doyle was able to push it over the bar.
Sturridge, from the left this time, put a little too much pace on a curling cross for Ivanovic, who had evaded the offside flag. Chelsea by now had switched to 4-2-3-1 with Mata now central and Ramires on the right. Sturridge for a short spell decided to shoot at every opportunity and his best effort was a dipping one that didn’t clear the bar by much.
Birmingham’s only effort of the half since their goal saw Cech save comfortably from Redmond.
Drogba replaced Torres for the restart. The shape remained 4-2-3-1 but now with Sturridge the more central player behind Drogba and Mata back out on the left. We continued to dominate possession but a good link between our midfield and attacking play was not there, although one Mikel long pass almost picked out a well-placed Drogba.
On 54 minutes, Cahill was wrongly booked for what was nothing more than good strong defending on Birmingham’s lone striker Adam Rooney and two minutes later, Andre Villas-Boas made a second change, bringing on Kalou for Mikel. Kalou now played on the left, Mata back in the middle with Sturridge on the right of the three behind Drogba.
The previously subdued Mata did well to get a shot away when closely marked but was a yard or two off target before he did make a telling contribution.
There were 61 minutes played when the Spaniard spotted Ivanovic in space down the right and found him with the necessary pass. The cross from the Serbian was delivered with pace and accuracy and it was given the finishing touch it deserved, Sturridge guiding a header inside the far post to put his side back level.
Sturridge saves Chelsea and André Villas-Boas against Birmingham.
Chelsea faces a replay at second-tier Birmingham City in the fifth round of England’s F.A. Cup after Saturday’s 1-1 draw put more pressure on Coach André Villas-Boas.
John Obi Mikel (Salomon Kalou, 58),
Juan Mata (Frank Lampard, 83),
Fernando Torres (Didier Drogba, 45),
Stephen Carr (Jonathan Spector, 13),
Wade Elliott (Chris Burke, 83),
Adam Rooney (Jake Jervis, 71)
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