After playing Barnsley just once for 22 years, we get them for a second time already this season after a 6-0 win back in September at the Bridge in the League Cup. The competition this time is the FA Cup and the venue is Oakwell, which will immediately echo that aforementioned singular meeting in the span of over two decades, when Avram Grant’s Chelsea were humbled 1-0 in the 2008 quarterfinals.
It was the one competition that season where Grant’s Chelsea didn’t come second, and it was the pinnacle of goalscorer Kayode Odejayi’s career. He retired a couple years ago after a long career in the lower divisions.
As back then, Barnsley are in the Championship and will be hoping for another giant-killing. That loss is one of only two losses to in our last 54 matches against lower league opposition in the FA Cup. (The other, Bradford City at home …[file not found]…).
Let’s not make this the third.
Date / Time: Thursday, February 11, 2021, 20.00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Oakwell, Barnsley, England
Referee: Martin Atkinson (on pitch); no VAR
Forecast: Freezing cold and getting colder
On TV: BBC One (UK); none (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Maximo (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BBC iPlayer (UK); ESPN+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA) — We (WAGNH) have an affiliate link for ESPN+ if you’re in the US and would like to sign up for the best value in sports streaming (or, if you’re like me, sign up for the Disney-Hulu-ESPN+ bundle).
Barnsley team news: Like the Blues, the Tykes have also sacked their manager since our last meeting back in September. One time Crystal Palace defender Valérien Ismaël, who would later win the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich, too, has been in charge since late October, and has won more games than he’s lost.
Barnsley’s previous fixture, a home match against Derby County was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, but given the freezing temperatures, we can probably assume that won’t be a problem. Let’s just hope it’s not an ice rink.
The extra time off — 12 days since they last played — has given their players a chance to recover a bit, though the focus is still very much on the league, where they’re currently stuck firmly in midtable, 8 points above the drop zone and 9 points from the playoff spots. However, they’re winless in their last five Championship matches (3 draws, 2 losses back-to-back). A good performance in this game could help them turn that form around.
The team’s leading goalscorer is former Fulham striker Cauley Woodrow, while ex-Chelsea youngsters Brad Collins and Isaac Christie-Davies are both on the books, the latter after spending the last couple years in Liverpool’s Development Squad. Collins, who joined in 2019, recently won his starting job back between the sticks from homegrown youth graduate Jack Walton, while ICD left on loan in January to try his luck in Slovakia at FC DAC, who, believe it or not, are my hometown club! Small world. (His first chance to play is this weekend.)
Chelsea team news: Three wins on the bounce and four unbeaten under Tuchel, albeit against less than impressive opposition, has Chelsea feeling much better than this time last month, but it’s still a fragile situation with small margins especially in the Premier League. This, then, is a chance to relax and rotate a bit, with Tuchel already confirming starts for Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, N’Golo Kanté in midfield, and Hakim Ziyech in attack. The latter two are certainly not bad options to call upon as de facto “backups”.
That said, this competition represents our best chance of winning a trophy this season, so nothing should be taken for granted. We might still see some extra youth involvement, with Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin surely knocking on the door, and a few others like Lewis Bate, Tino Livramento, and Levi Colwill also involved in training recently.
Previously: Kai Havertz, who’s still apparently absent for whatever reason, scored a hat-trick as Chelsea waltzed to a 6-0 win in the third round of the League Cup earlier this season.