Chelsea's manager, Andre Villas-Boas, will return from the squad's trip to Spain this week intent on a serious attempt at making the FA Cup his first trophy in the job. To that end he is prepared to throw his captain, John Terry, into the lions' den that will be Loftus Road on Saturday, for a repeat of the fixture that has landed Terry in court on Wednesday week, charged with making a racist remark, which he strongly denies.
The bad blood surrounding Chelsea's 1-0 defeat by Queen's Park Rangers in the league game will not easily be staunched, although Villas-Boas is hoping supporters and the media will help.
"Regarding the fans, it is our responsibility as a club to calm the situation around the game," he said, "and also to put on a message for the media as you can do excellent work in calming things down."
The notion that it is just another game may be unusually naive and it was unfortunate that shortly after he was expressing those sentiments about supporters on Saturday, a number of Chelsea fans were accused of what was believed to be racist chanting on a train back to London. British Transport Police are investigating and the club quickly promised they would ban any offenders.
Abramovich, like his manager, does not regard the FA Cup as the trophy he wants most, but Chelsea have won it three times in five seasons and Villas-Boas says: "We have a competition to win. One of the most prestigious ones. So we will try to put the strongest team possible." Asked if Terry might nevertheless be left out in the circumstances, and with the new signing Gary Cahill available, he said: "There is no temptation to do that."
Terry was as solid as ever on Saturday against the type of physical strikers he likes taking on, in Grant Holt and Steve Morison. The surprise was that David Luiz alongside him performed even better. Apart from one overreaction to a challenge, the occasionally erratic Brazilian was exemplary, curbing his dashes forward, winning tackles and distributing well. On the one notable occasion that the pair were caught out, Holt, played in by his partner, turned past Luiz only to shoot narrowly wide. That was during Norwich's best period early on, after which their main concern was to keep a first clean sheet of the season. It was duly achieved, thanks in the main to John Ruddy's goalkeeping, another sturdy pair of central defenders and Fernando Torres' finishing. Villas-Boas may defend his £50m striker in public and probably in private too, but his furious reaction caught by the television cameras as Torres poked his best chance wide from eight yards was telling.
There was understandable delight in Norfolk with a point, above all from Ruddy, who had been sent off in the 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, when Norwich were level until the last eight minutes. The goalkeeper's glove sponsors offer £200 for every clean sheet but had not had to pay up until now. Ruddy will give the money to Help for Heroes, as he has a family background in the forces and his best friend is an army corporal returning to Afghanistan in March.
Norwich: RUDDY 8/10; R MARTIN 5; AYALA 5; WHITBREAD 7; NAUGHTON 6; PILKINGTON 7; FOX 6; JOHNSON 6; SURMAN 6; HOLT 6; MORISON 6
Chelsea: CECH 7; TERRY 7; LUIZ 8; COLE 7; MEIRELES 6; RAMIRES 6; BOSINGWA 6; MATA 8; STURRIDGE 5; LAMPARD 6; TORRES 5
Substitutes: Norwich City Crofts (Fox, 79), Jackson (Morison, 79), Bennett (Surman, 90).
Chelsea Malouda 6 (Lampard, 37), Lukaku (Torres, 77), Essien (Meireles, 79).
Booked: Norwich None. Chelsea None.
Man of the match Ruddy. Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Norwich 42% Chelsea 58%.
Attempts on target: Norwich 3 Chelsea 9.
Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
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