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Can free-scoring Derby County shock Chelsea in FA Cup?

It’s all about timing. Coral make Chelsea 4/9 to beat 6/1 Derby (100/30 the draw) in Sunday’s FA Cup 3rd round tie, but if this game had taken place in the middle of last month, we might have been seriously wondering whether the Championship side could take down Jose Mourinho’s men.

At the time Derby were about the conclude an astonishing run of seven straight wins which would take them from mid-table up to second place. Chelsea, on the other hand, had just been stung by Stoke City in the Premier League and also been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Sunderland.

But things look a little different now. Chelsea have enjoyed a productive Christmas campaign to keep them firmly in the Premiership title picture, while Derby have begun to wobble; down to fourth place after a shock home defeat to Wigan on New Year’s Day.

The Rams had certainly been on a roll since Steve McClaren took over from Nigel Clough in the autumn, scoring freely while losing only one of their first 14 games under the former England boss.

Chris Martin has been responsible for 12 of Derby’s 48 goals (best in the Championship) this season, while midfielder Craig Bryson has impressively weighed in with 11. Martin is 100/30 to net again (9/1 first or last), while Bryson is 5/1 chance (12/1 first or last), although he needs to pass a fitness test.

But McClaren is not getting carried away with the great early strides the team have made under his stewardship and even admits that the climb up into promotion territory has owed quite a bit to good fortune.

And he is under no illusions about the task facing his team this Sunday, or indeed next weekend when they travel to league leaders Leicester.

The Chelsea machine isn’t operating smoothly yet, but they are still in contention in the Premier League and the Champions League and Mourinho appears to be making progress, albeit slow, as he attempts to mould the team to his liking.

And they should have too much for Derby, even if the Portuguese boss decides to ring the changes. Such is the strength in depth at Stamford Bridge that there will surely be enough firepower on the pitch (and on the bench if things aren’t working out) to outscore Derby.

Coral’s 23/20 Chelsea winning at half time and full time looks good, but Derby will contribute to what I expect to be a highly entertaining game so 1-3 (11/1) and 2-3 (25/1) are other prices that appeal.