Chelsea take on Championship side Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Juan Mata says Chelsea must use recent disappointments as a source of motivation as they bid to set up an FA Cup quarter-final glamour tie with Manchester United.
The European champions visit second-tier Middlesbrough in the fifth round on Wednesday, three days after a 2-0 loss at Manchester City that left them seven points adrift of the top two in the Premier League.
It leaves Champions League qualification as Chelsea’s only realistic objective in the league this season, but they remain in contention for honours in both the FA Cup and the Europa League.
The draw for the last eight in the FA Cup dealt Rafael Benitez’s side a possible trip to Old Trafford in the next round and Mata believes that should provide enough motivation to cast recent setbacks into the shade.
Writing on his official blog, blogs.grada360.com/juanmata, the Spain midfielder said: “We’re sorry for our fans.
“The way to overcome the disappointment is winning again, and this coming Wednesday we have an opportunity to move one step forward in the FA Cup.
“We can still win two titles. That, plus getting a ticket to play the next Champions League, is our motivation with a view to the rest of the season and we will fight for those goals until the end, like this club has always done.”
Interim Chelsea coach Benitez has complained that his club are “playing too many games” at the moment and he seems likely to shuffle his pack for the trip to the Riverside Stadium.
Striker Fernando Torres and club captain John Terry will both hope to start, having been named on the substitutes’ bench for the defeat at City.
Middlesbrough, FA Cup quarter-finalists five times since the turn of the century, are also seeking distraction from poor league form.
The north-east club have lost seven of their nine Championship games to date this year and slipped out of the play-off places after losing 2-1 at home to Millwall on Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to it. It is a one-off that will lift the tensions of the Championship season,” said manager Tony Mowbray.
“I hope the supporters turn up, but it’s their hard-earned money and you can’t tell them that they have to come.
“However, we will need a great atmosphere and hope the players find a performance to make the fans proud.”
Middlesbrough will be without the ineligible trio of Josh McEachran, Kieron Dyer and Sammy Ameobi.
Boro will also be without Lukas Jutkiewicz (ankle) and Jonathan Woodgate (calf), while Stuart Parnaby, Justin Hoyte and Julio Arca remain out.
Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta will both miss the tie.
Azpilicueta has a leg injury, while Cahill has a virus, so John Terry could come back into the side, having been rested at Manchester City on Sunday.
Middlesbrough: Teele; Bikey, Williams, McManus, Friend; Carayol, Leadbitter, Dyer, Hailliday; McDonald, Main.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Bertrand; Mikel, Ramires; Moses, Oscar, Marin; Torres.
• These clubs first met in 1907; Chelsea have won 53 of the 113 games and Middlesbrough 31.
• They last clashed in the 2008-09 Premier League season, when Chelsea did the double and took their winning sequence to five since Middlesbrough’s 2-1 home triumph in August 2006.
• Chelsea lead 2-1 in the FA Cup head-to-head standings, with the most significant tie being their 2-0 victory in the Wembley final in May 1997, when Roberto Di Matteo famously scored after 43 seconds, Ruud Gullit became the first foreign manager to win the cup, and Mark Hughes picked up a fourth winners’ medal.
• A trip to Old Trafford awaits the winners, and a quarter-final tie against Manchester United on Saturday 9 March.
• Middlesbrough are hoping to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in four seasons. They last reached the last eight for the fourth season in a row in 2009.
• The Teesside club have been knocked out by Premier League clubs in three of the last four seasons, and haven’t despatched one themselves since West Ham in the fifth round in February 2009.
• Tony Mowbray’s men have had a dramatic downturn in form since the turn of the year, having dropped from third to seventh in the Championship with one win in nine, while their only other victories in 2013 were against Hastings United and Aldershot Town in the FA Cup.
• By comparison, Chelsea have lost four of 15 games in 2013, and are targeting their seventh victory.
• The seven-times FA Cup winners, who’ve lifted the trophy in four of the last six seasons, have won 21 and drawn five of 26 FA Cup matches, and have lost only one of their last 37 in the regulation 90 minutes.
• The Cup holders came within seven minutes of being knocked out by League One Brentford in the fourth round, but won the replay 4-0 at Stamford Bridge.
• They have knocked out the last 10 Championship clubs they have been drawn against, and were last humiliated by such a side in the 2008 quarter-finals, when Barnsley won 1-0 at Oakwell.
• Frank Lampard has scored a club record 26 FA Cup goals for Chelsea, and 199 in all, leaving him three behind Bobby Tambling’s all-time club record.
Middlesbrough 6/1 to beat Chelsea: Middlesbrough vs Chelsea Betting