The gap in the league positions of hosts Barnsley and visitors Chelsea is the biggest between any teams facing each other in this round of the FA Cup but the Tykes were the last Championship side to eliminate the Blues from this competition back in 2008.
When these sides squared up earlier this campaign in the Carabao Cup, both were under different management. The two current coaches also met head-to-head in the Bundesliga four years ago this month, when Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund were 3-0 winners over Valerien Ismael’s Wolfsburg.
Chelsea’s next league action is on Monday at the Bridge when struggling Newcastle are in the capital, but Tuchel will not be looking ahead. Every child knows the magical words ‘Wembley’ and ‘FA Cup final’, he enthused this week, and adding the FA Cup to his previous honours would be ‘huge’.
There was a spring in the Blues’ step and the hop was back in penalty-scorer Jorginho’s run-up as the Londoners won 2-1 at Sheffield United on Sunday.
Now, four days on and 12 miles away, the Blades’ near neighbours stand in the way of Chelsea’s progress to the quarter-finals for the 11th time in 20 attempts. The Tykes are mid-table in the second tier, two points and three places below Chelsea’s round four visitors Luton, beaten 3-1 at the Bridge.
Chelsea team news
There has been something of a Europa League rhythm to the past few weeks, with Thursday/Sunday/Thursday matches which have so far gone well for Tuchel.
Now he faces his first foray into English football’s biggest knockout competition and it will be intriguing to see the Bavarian’s approach with no league action till Newcastle on Monday.
In his spells at Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, Tuchel took cup tournaments seriously, winning the equivalent of the FA Cup in Germany (2016/17) and France (2019/20), as well as the French League Cup (also last season) and Super Cup (2018/19 and 2019/20).
He has said there will be numerous team changes to maintain freshness in mind and body, with N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech starting. Will the head coach also try out a new system, such as a back four, or wait till Thiago Silva is fit again to martial the defence?
Players who have had to wait for a run under Tuchel will be eager to make their mark this evening. Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has worn the gloves in both previous FA Cup outings, might have done better on Luton’s goal in the last round but made an excellent one-handed save to maintain his team’s advantage at 2-1.
The likes of Kurt Zouma, Christian Pulisic – back in training after missing Sunday’s game – and Tammy Abraham will be pressing to be named in the 11. Abraham scored all three against the Hatters – the first former youth team player to hit an FA Cup treble since Peter Osgood in 1969/70 – and is the Londoners’ leading marksman in this competition.
Throughout his career Tuchel has nurtured young players and that may be the case again tonight for Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin. The Scot has played every minute of this competition in central midfield, while one of the number 10 berths could suit Anjorin.
|ROUND 3||ROUND 4|
|Chelsea||Morecambe home 4-0||Luton home 3-1|
|Barnsley||Tranmere home 2-0||Norwich home 1-0|
Valerien Ismael and his Barnsley side are winless in the Championship this year but have yet to concede in the FA Cup. As the Oakwell pitch was deemed unfit for football last weekend they have seen no action for 12 days.
Ismael uses the most youthful team in the Championship to play a high-tempo, pressing 3-4-3 formation, aiming to out-run and out-fight opponents. Their style is not possession-based and they are happy to play the ball long, then harass to create chances.
Leading scorer Cauley Woodrow accounts for a quarter of all Barnsley’s shots though fewer than one in three are on target. Skipper Alex Mowatt and Conor Chaplin also like to pepper the goal. Bustling Victor Adeboyejo is more sparing with his firepower but is the more accurate when he shoots.
The long throw of Dominik Frieser is another occasional weapon in the Barnsley armoury, while 20-year-old USA international forward Daryl Dike could make his debut.
Defensively, the Tykes maintain a high defensive line with an offside trap that has snared the third-most strikers in their division. Chelsea, though, will almost certainly target the Reds’ vulnerability to counter-attacks with pace behind.
Only Wycombe have kept fewer clean sheets in the Championship than the Reds, but Chelsea Academy graduate Brad Collins, who has been their FA Cup ’keeper, and played in our 6-0 Carabao Cup win, could retain his place.
How to watch Barnsley vs Chelsea
This match will be covered live by BBC One in the UK. All eight round five ties will for the first time be covered live on the BBC and BT Sport. To find out which broadcaster has the rights where you are, look here.
As ever, Chelsea TV’s pre- and post-match shows can be found on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
When is the FA Cup quarter-finals draw?
Both teams will be ball number five in the draw for round six, to be conducted before kick-off at Oakwell, from around 7.30pm on BBC One, Emirates FA Cup YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook accounts, or on BT Sport 1.
The four quarter-finals are scheduled for the weekend of Saturday 20 March, currently set aside for our league trip to Liverpool, who are already out.
Chelsea predicted XI (3-4-2-1): Kepa; Zouma, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Havertz, Chilwell; Ziyech, Pulisic; Abraham