Boudewijn Zenden believes our FA Cup fifth-round clash at Middlesbrough provides the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways following the disappointment of Sunday’s defeat to Manchester City.
The 2-0 reverse at the Etihad saw us fall seven points behind Roberto Mancini’s side in the Premier League table, but our assistant first team coach, who spent two years at the Riverside Stadium after leaving Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, believes tomorrow’s game could be just what we need.
‘We’ve been on a good run but we played against a strong team on Sunday, and unfortunately weren’t able to get a result,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘The games come thick and fast, and the next one is Middlesbrough. The club have done very well in the FA Cup in recent years and we definitely want to continue that run.
‘Sometimes it’s hard when you’re playing every two or three days as you don’t get a chance to recover properly, but it also gives you the opportunity to get rid of any negative feelings as you have to focus on the next game.’
Middlesbrough, currently under the guidance of Tony Mowbray, have enjoyed a decent season thus far. Having topped the Championship table prior to Christmas, they have fallen slightly off the pace of late, but remain only a point away from the play-off positions.
It remains, however, a far cry from the days when Zenden represented the club, a spell which saw the Teessiders not only end a long trophy drought, but also threaten some of Europe’s big-hitters, and it’s a period he recalls fondly.
‘I’m looking forward to going back and seeing some friends,’ he says. ‘I had a good time at Middlesbrough; we won the League Cup, got to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup and finished seventh in the Premier League, but a lot has changed since then.
‘In the League Cup final I gave an assist, scored a penalty and was awarded Man of the Match. I slipped when I took the penalty; a lot of players have missed in similar situations but fortunately for me mine went in.
‘In the UEFA Cup, we played Lazio in the group stages, it was an 8pm kick-off but rather than stay in a hotel the night before the game, we met at the ground a couple of hours before kick-off.
‘It worked because we won the game 2-0 and I scored both goals, one was a header and the other was a volley.’
The FA Cup is a competition which holds bittersweet memories for Zenden from his time as a Chelsea player.
The 2002 final against Arsenal in Cardiff marked his return from a lengthy spell out injured, but having come on for Mario Melchiot late in the game, there was little he could do to prevent Arsene Wenger’s side from winning the game 2-0.
‘I remember losing the FA Cup final in 2002, it was one of my first games back after my injury,’ he explains.
‘I was a substitute, but I came on, and it was the game when Ray Parlour stuck one in the top corner, probably the best goal he’s ever scored, so that was a big disappointment.’
The Blues have been drawn away in every round of this season’s FA Cup, with a trip to face Manchester United on the horizon if we overcome Middlesbrough.
Tomorrow’s game will be our 48th in all competitions, and having required a replay to see off Brentford in the previous round, Zenden is hopeful we can secure our progression at the first time of asking.
‘We already have so many games to play in our busy schedule,’ he explains. ‘We’ve played more matches than any other team in Europe so we will be looking to get the job done on the night.
‘It’s an opportunity to win a trophy. As a player, you always have the desire to win trophies and we want to finish the season strongly.
‘It’s vital we progress in the competition because it’s a beautiful trophy to win.’