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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 20:42 GMT
Forest face FA Cup dilemma
By Chris Bevan

Chelsea host Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday

Nothing is straightforward in football. Ask any Nottingham Forest fan.

Their once-great club - now reduced to battling to clamber out of League One - face Premiership champions Chelsea live on the BBC on Sunday in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Victory would be sensational, a draw would at the very least mean financial glee and even defeat would be tempered by allowing Colin Calderwood's side to concentrate on promotion.

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BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

But of course pride is at stake and there is also the prospect of a hammering which could damage confidence fatally for the rest of the season.

Sports psychologist James Hamilton tells BBC Sport what Forest should aim to take out of their trip to Stamford Bridge.


Forest's problem is that their priority is promotion.

They are in a slightly fragile position with that and their form has been up and down this year.

So their primary task in this game is not necessarily to make it to the next round but instead to come out of the game with as many players as possible feeling good about the way they handled themselves and used their skills and ability.

I don't think they are going to win or draw so it really is about getting out in as good a condition as possible


If they lose heavily for certain reasons then that could derail their promotion bid.

Current position: 3rd Lge One
Manager: Colin Calderwood
Top scorer: Grant Holt 13

If a smaller team gets heavily beaten - and I think Chelsea have that in mind - there are one or two traps they will have fallen into.

Luton versus Liverpool in the FA Cup last season was a great example of the first trap - as individuals Luton tried to raise their game instead of sticking to their strengths.

Instead of applying themselves to the team according to the manager's strategy they started trying skills and moves they were not so good at just to try to prove a point to their opposite number.

If Forest's players move away from their strengths - which actually allow them to match the player they are facing - they will come away knowing that they let themselves down and this could bleed into future League One games.

Current position: 2nd Prem
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Top scorer: Didier Drogba 21

The second trap is that they might try too hard, again as individuals.

They might try to put into their game what is known as fan emotion - passion and commitment. They run a bit faster than usual, tackle a bit harder, pick up yellow and red cards and go for ridiculous long shots.

They will look enthusiastic and it is great for supporters - but it stops players employing their strengths and it means they won't have their best game - again the team shape disintegrates and you lose possession.


Julian Bennett and Grant Holt celebrate scoring against Charlton
Julian Bennett and Grant Holt celebrate scoring against Charlton

If Forest can stick to their own game and still be level going into the last 20 minutes then it will be Chelsea who panic.

And if the better team panics then there is at least a chance they will lower their game and make the mistakes that will give Forest a chance.

If you watched them against Charlton in the previous round that is exactly what happened.

Charlton not only felt they had to win that game but they were shocked to be losing to a lesser team. They lost faith in the shape of their team delivering what they need and started trying to do it on their own.

It was the classic headless chicken syndrome - and it was an absolute disaster - they just got picked off.

For Forest I'd say if they hang on in their shape and they stick to their strengths and wait for Chelsea to panic they might have a chance. It might not happen and it's very unlikely but it's their best chance.


So much depends on Chelsea's attitude and how many goals they want before they start to conserve their energy and settle for controlling the game.

Andriy Shevchenko
Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko still has a point to prove

If it is just two then Forest's players will probably come off feeling ok, even if they make all the mistakes I have outlined.

Unfortunately for Forest there are one or two Chelsea strikers who are trying to get into form right now and the chances are they will not be happy with two goals.

What I haven't heard from Colin Calderwood is him saying they have to treat this game as if they can win it - that is good because it would just be deluded.

Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe while Forest are just about managing to stay near the top of League One.

If they start thinking about winning or have a go and try to nick an early goal then they are going to get taken apart and feel terrible about it.


Calderwood should go to each player individually and say 'this is what I want you to do for me'.

'I want you to perform in exactly this role, I want to see exactly these things that you can do and not these things which you are not good at - and if you do that then that counts for a win for me as a manager and you are a hero in front of your own fans for me'.

He has to give them a way of winning even if they are not going to win the game and then you can avoid talking about winning.

If they do that then they will enjoy the experience and they have got a chance even if it is not much of one.

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