Jose Mourinho insists his Chelsea stars must ignore talk of a potential quadruple because it is virtually impossible to win all the major prizes.
Mourinho’s side will look to keep their challenge for the FA Cup on course when they face third tier Bradford at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round on Saturday and if, as expected, they advance to the last 16 there will be renewed talk of Chelsea hoovering up all four trophies.
The Blues are top of the Premier League, face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League second round and host Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final second leg next week after a securing a valuable 1-1 draw in the first leg.
But Chelsea manager Mourinho believes the inevitable fixture congestion that comes with long runs in the domestic cup competitions will prove an insurmountable hurdle.
“It’s very difficult,” Mourinho said. “A team that plays the League Cup final will have one game in the Premier League postponed. A team that plays the FA Cup semi-final will have a game postponed. A team that gets a draw in the FA Cup has to play another game.
“If a team is in all these competitions plus the European competition until the end of the season, there will arrive a moment in April, May where it will be so difficult that I would say almost impossible.”
Chelsea are bidding to win the FA Cup for a fifth time in nine years, but with the Liverpool clash and then a huge showdown against title rivals Manchester City looming next week, Mourinho will make several changes against Bradford.
“We have two knockout matches in three days, so after Tuesday we can be in four competitions or only two. Of course we want to try to be in all four,” Mourinho said.
“The third match is just a Premier League match, one of 38, and that is different. It doesn’t decide anything, but Bradford and Liverpool, yes. They decide if we are still in the competition.”
– Liverpool’s Heskey reunion –
Resurgent Liverpool, unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, face a reunion with former striker Emile Heskey when they welcome second-division Bolton Wanderers to Anfield.
The 37-year-old former England striker joined Bolton in December after a two-year spell with Australian club Newcastle Jets.
“Emile has been fantastic since he walked through the door,” said Bolton manager Neil Lennon, whose side are currently 15th in the Championship.
“He had a bit to prove when he came back here and he’s doing that. There’s plenty of football left in him and he’s been a big bonus for us.”
Manchester City also face Championship opposition in the form of Middlesbrough, while there are two all-Premier League ties, with Southampton entertaining Crystal Palace and Leicester City visiting Tottenham Hotspur.
Holders Arsenal, meanwhile, will approach their trip to second-division Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday with renewed vigour after an impressive 2-0 victory at Manchester City in the Premier League last weekend.
“For us the challenge is to turn up with the same spirit and show that we can be consistent with our attitude game by game,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“In the FA Cup, god knows that is needed. We know that it will be another big challenge for us to go there and come home with a positive result.”
Wenger has revealed that German playmaker Mesut Ozil is likely to start at the Amex Stadium as he steps up his rehabilitation following a three-month absence with a knee injury.
Saturday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Birmingham City v West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Rovers v Swansea City (1245 GMT), Cardiff City v Reading, Chelsea v Bradford City, Derby County v Chesterfield, Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers (1730 GMT), Manchester City v Middlesbrough, Preston North End v Sheffield United, Southampton v Crystal Palace, Sunderland v Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City
Aston Villa v Bournemouth (1500 GMT), Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal (1600 GMT), Bristol City v West Ham United (1400 GMT)
Monday (2000 GMT):
Rochdale v Stoke City