Hull City manager Steve Bruce believes leaders Chelsea could win all four major trophies this season but still insists his side will not fear them this afternoon.
The Tigers, in contrast, have arrested a four-match losing run with two draws in the Premier League but that has not prevented their slide into the relegation zone and they remain in desperate need of a victory.
Hopes of delivering that when they head to Stamford Bridge today are already slim given the dynamic form of Jose Mourinho’s all-stars this term.
However, odds have lengthened even further, somewhat bizarrely, given Chelsea suffered their first loss of the entire season last weekend, a surprise 2-1 defeat at Newcastle.
Bruce knows only too well that there is likely to be a fierce backlash following that unexpected reverse at St James’ Park.
Furthermore, having already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, Mourinho was able to rest the likes of captain John Terry, Belgian schemer Eden Hazard plus Brazilian midfielders Oscar and Willian for Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon.
Chelsea, then, will be fully prepared and reinvigorated for today’s return to league action.
Bruce admitted: “I watched a DVD of them the other day from when they played against WBA a couple of weeks ago.
“They’re a team with no real weakness; they’ve got a little bit of everything you need to win a Barclays Premier League match.
“Tough, resilient, determined. They’re big, strong and up front they’ve got a little sparkle of everything.
“Arguably, they’ve got one of the best managers ever, so it’s pretty formidable.
“(But) no one gave us a chance in the (FA) Cup final and no one gave us a chance of staying up last season.
“You’ve got to go out and enjoy the challenge and say ‘we’re playing against the best, let’s roll our sleeves up and go and have a go’.
“When you do that, who knows? We might catch them on an off day. Can we make it difficult for them and play well on the day?
“Like we did at Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle. I’m sure we’ve got it in us to do that and if we’re not quite good enough, then we’re not quite good enough.
“If you go and surrender before you start, then it can be a miserable afternoon rather than one you look forward to and enjoy it.”
Fearsome Chelsea have been beaten just once in 22 games all season, their hopes of emulating the feat of the famous Arsenal “Invincibles” side of 2003-04, that went an entire league campaign unbeaten, ruined last weekend.
Hull have won just one league game since defeating QPR on the opening day of the season, last week’s scoreless draw at fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion seeing them fall to 18th.
But Bruce points to last term’s trip to Stamford Bridge, a 2-0 opening day defeat in Mourinho’s first game back at the club, as reason for belief.
“One of our results of the season last year was that first game against Chelsea,” he said.
“We found it so hard in the first half; we never had a kick (trailed 2-0). But we gradually got into it and I think that gave us the impetus and the belief that we could play in the Premier League and we were good enough to stay in the division.
“Let’s hope we can do the same again. We need to, because we’ve had a tough run.
“We’ve been to Goodison, the Emirates, Old Trafford, Anfield, Villa Park and St James’. They are big clubs for us and with Chelsea now we’ve been to all the clubs I think will be in the top 10.
“There’s not many more to go to, so that will stand us in good stead, hopefully.”
On the subject of whether they can achieve an unprecedented quadruple – Chelsea are also in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals at Derby County on Tuesday – Bruce replied: “They’re capable.
“I’m not going to say they will but they’re capable of doing anything.
“They’re the outstanding team in the division at the moment.”
Meanwhile, the Hull manager has praised the manner in which previously ever-present captain Curtis Davies has dealt with being dropped from the starting line-up.
The 29-year-old, such an integral part of City’s survival bid last term after his £2.25m move from Birmingham City, was left out following the 3-0 loss at Manchester United.
His side have, of course, picked up two draws since and Bruce said: “He’s disappointed, exactly like I’d expect him to be.
“But he hasn’t gone in a huff, he’s rolled up his sleeves and trained like a beast in the last week.
“Let’s not forget what he did last year; he was absolutely unbelievable.
“It’s not quite happened for him this season but let’s hope the break away from it does him good.
“I’m sure over the next week or so there’ll be a time when he comes back into the side and let’s hope he’s better for the break. I’m sure he will be.
“He remains my captain. He’s been magnificent for the club, totally magnificent.”
Former England centre-back Michael Dawson has taken on the armband in the interim, the 31-year-old Northallerton-born defender showing all his leadership quality since joining from Tottenham in the summer.
“You can see why he’s been the captain of Tottenham for so many years,” admitted Bruce, who may recall Davies as soon as this afternoon if he reverts to a three-man central defence.
“You just have to see him as a player to realise why he’s a leader. He shows by example and he’s got the know-how of the division.
“I could have picked one of the lads who served me so well over the last couple of years, but I just think he’s a natural captain.
“He’s probably captained every side he’s played for since he was a lad, he’s one of them.
“He’s been terrific for us, absolutely terrific.”
Midfielder Mohamed Diame has had an injection in his problematic knee but may be fit for the visit of Swansea in a week’s time while out-of-favour Hatem Ben Arfa is left out for a third successive game and has not travelled to London.
Attacking Uruguyan midfielder Gaston Ramirez, on loan from Southampton, has completed a three-game ban and is back in contention for the Tigers.
Man behind the mask – Liam Rosenior interview: Page 5.