Blues to banish Boro
Chelsea return to action on Wednesday looking for a quick turnaround in fortune after their high-profile loss to Manchester City.
- Related Content
They are odds-on to see off lower-league opposition but can an out-of-form Middlesbrough take advantage of any slip-ups?
David John expects not and predicts a comfortable evening for Chelsea and a trip to Manchester United in the next round.
Middlesbrough v Chelsea (2000GMT)
Middlesbrough and Chelsea clash in their delayed fifth-round FA Cup clash on Wednesday night and both have something to prove.
That may temper some punters from wading in at a best price of 4/9 on the visitors with rumours of more dissent among the ranks following the 2-0 loss at Manchester City on Sunday.
Rafa Benitez was quick to dismiss talk of a bust-up but did admit to a strong discussion with the players prior to training on Monday. He has emerged from that apparently with their full backing.
Juan Mata delivered his two-penneth as well for good measure with their inability to compete against the very top sides in the league an obvious stumbling block.
But victories against the lesser lights continue to flow with their obvious class and experience ultimately proving more powerful than any differences in the camp.
So as their position in the Premier League and a pursuit of Champions League place comes under fire from a hard-charging Tottenham, the chance for Benitez to win a few more fans around at the Riverside should come as some relief.
The hosts will be hoping that Chelsea repeat the below-par effort they produced against Brentford at Griffin Park in the last round but you wonder whether Tony Mowbray's side will actually be able to take advantage at 7/1.
Boro have lost six out of their nine most-recent fixtures, including three out of five at the Riverside and that run has seen them drop out of the top six in the Championship for the first time since October.
'Mogga' has bemoaned a succession of cheap goals being given away and despite their recent woes - perceived or otherwise - Chelsea do score frequently and have the second-best tally this season in the Premier League.
This and the Europa League remain realistic chances of some silverware and I don't expect them being hard pushed to set up a quarter-final showdown with Manchester United.
It is more than four years since this duo met but the last five meetings between Boro and Chelsea stands at 13-0 on aggregate in favour of the visitors and just a one-goal handicap at 6/5 should not be insurmountable.
Verdict: Middlesbrough 1 Chelsea 3