U's manager facing a pitch battle

COLCHESTER United boss Phil Parkinson has admitted that Sunday's opponents Chelsea have just one weakness - the Stamford Bridge pitch!Star-studded Chelsea, with all their big-money internationals, will start as red-hot favourites to brush aside the “minnows” of Layer Road and so reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United boss Phil Parkinson has admitted that Sunday's opponents Chelsea have just one weakness - the Stamford Bridge pitch!

Star-studded Chelsea, with all their big-money internationals, will start as red-hot favourites to brush aside the “minnows” of Layer Road and so reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

But the U's are determined to enjoy their big day out in west London, and they haven't completely ruled out the prospect of a shock result, although Parkinson is struggling to find a weak spot in the Chelsea ranks.


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“Chelsea are a top quality team. They don't have many weaknesses, apart from their pitch, which is not as good as ours!” revealed Parkinson.

“They have dangerous players all over the pitch, but especially down the wings, whoever they pick. We have had them watched, and we will be having meetings about how to approach it.

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“Of course you always have a chance in football. That's the nature of the game.

“We will obviously have to be very good, and Chelsea will have to have an off-day, but these things do happen,” added Parkinson.

After a club record run of 10 straight victories, the U's have faltered of late, losing 2-0 at Huddersfield last Saturday and then sharing a goalless stalemate with relegation-threatened Walsall on Tuesday night.

But the Layer Road club remain in the top two, just one point behind leaders and Essex rivals Southend, and with a game in hand. However, only eight points now separate the top six, and only four points split the top five.

Parkinson made sure that his players remained tight-lipped about this Sunday's FA Cup fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge, until after Tuesday night's fixture against Walsall.

He commented: “We have had a lot of media exposure at the club in the last few weeks, which is something that we have not been used to.

“Now we can all look forward to the big day. The lads can enjoy all the press attention, and I'm sure that they will take it all in their stride.

“I don't think that the Chelsea game has been a distraction to our main priority of the league. I'm happy with getting seven points from the four matches since the Cup draw was made.

“Now we have a massive money-spinner this weekend. It's the tie that this club has been waiting for over many years.

“Rather than looking at the result, I'm more concerned about putting in a professional performance. It's been a hard job to block it all out over the last couple of weeks, but I'm personally looking forward to the whole occasion.

“We had Chelsea watched at Middlesbrough (3-0 defeat) last weekend. I'm sure that Jose Mourinho had the team worked out whom he was going to play against us, though that might have changed since the defeat at Middlesbrough.

“That result could work both ways. It could help us, or it might hinder us and spur them on. But whatever team Jose Mourinho puts out, it's sure to be very strong.

“I have the utmost respect for Mourinho. He isn't just a manager who does all the talking. He has the trophies to back up his talking,” added Parkinson.

Nearly 5,000 of the U's allocation of 6,000 tickets were snapped up during the five days of the priority ticket scheme, before the remainder went on general sale yesterday.

And several fans queued up during the night, having watched the 0-0 draw against Walsall, to be sure of claiming their tickets yesterday morning.

Parkinson confirmed: “It's going to be a great day out for our fans, and the players. We just need to be disciplined and professional.

“The pitch is not great, but then all the best teams can adapt to all kinds of conditions.”

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