9 January ~ Stamford Bridge isn't a lucky ground for Ipswich Town. In 1970, a shot from Chelsea's Alan Hudson which hit the side-netting was awarded as a goal in a 2-1 win for the home team. In 1975, with Ipswich facing West Ham at the Bridge in an FA Cup semi-final replay, Clive Thomas inexplicably ruled out two Town goals for offside as the Hammers progressed to Wembley. And during another Chelsea victory in 2001, Andy D'Urso sent off Town centre-half John McGreal after the player had called the Essex official a "big-time Charlie" – easily the most restrained thing that's been said about D'Urso by anyone connected with Ipswich in the last decade.
What made McGreal's red card all the more bizarre was that a year earlier, D'Urso had administered only a booking to the captain of Man Utd after a sustained verbal attack. Would that his own discipline was the height of Roy Keane's troubles now. After a promising start to the season, Ipswich's nosedive in form (seven defeats from nine league matches going into today's FA Cup third-round tie at Chelsea) has left them heading towards the Championship's drop zone.
The clues leading up to Keane's sacking, announced just two days before the game, were there in the conspicuous silence from the club with regard to January's transfer budget. The squad is in self-evident need of strengthening, yet owner Marcus Evans was clearly reluctant to release any funds. When Keane replaced Jim Magilton in April 2009, the new man was lined up before the axe fell on Magilton, and it seems likely that Evans will have a successor installed before Triggs gets his first walk from an ex-manager of Ipswich Town.
Ipswich aren't a great Cup side and have never beaten Chelsea in a knockout tie, but this season the team's Cup form – Sunday's game precedes a League Cup semi-final against Arsenal – has proved a welcome distraction from league misery. There has been no such relief for opposing boss Carlo Ancelotti, an increasingly forlorn figure as backroom staff have been shuffled around him and his team has stuttered. With the league title looking distant, Chelsea may field a stronger team in this tie than they might have planned to.
But it could still be a difficult day for them. Connor Wickham, the highly-rated striker who starred in England's European Under-17 Championship victory last summer, has had a frustrating season, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him and other young Town players raise their game on the bigger stage. With a new manager on the horizon and a sold-out away end, Ipswich have plenty to gain from Sunday's game. Ancelotti and Chelsea, one feels, have everything to lose. Gavin Barber