Birmingham hope to cash in on chaos in replay


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The Independent Football

In any other week, the towering event for Chelsea would be tonight's FA Cup replay at Birmingham City. The prize is a home quarter-final against Leicester City – and a good shot at a Wembley semi-final.

Had Andre Villas-Boas not been dismissed on Sunday morning, this might have been his decisive match. Instead it is a difficult first game for the new management team of Roberto Di Matteo and Eddie Newton, who scored the goals that won Chelsea the Cup back in 1997.

"It has been a very difficult 24 hours at the football club," said Di Matteo. "Andre brought some very good, positive ideas and changes. I enjoyed working with him and we will remain friends, but I have to move on for this club and try my best with the players we have here. Eddie knows the club and many of the players. He is a Chelsea man and I want some passion from people who care about this club."

Chris Hughton's Birmingham are sixth in the Championship, having lost just one league game out of 13 since Boxing Day. "I know Roberto," Hughton said. "He's a very good football man. When there is a managerial change, there is a percentage of times when results turn for the better.

"Irrespective of recent events, we are playing against a very good team. We know that not losing to them once is tough, let alone twice. We understand that we are the underdogs but we have to make sure we are organised, like we were in the first game."

Hughton will be without the defenders Stephen Carr, Steve Caldwell and David Murphy, while Peter Ramage is Cup-tied and Curtis Davies is doubtful. Andros Townsend, Erik Huseklepp and Caleb Folan are also unavailable.

Three years ago Roman Abramovich sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari mid-season, only for Guus Hiddink to win the FA Cup with them. City might feel they stand in the way of history tonight.