Chelsea vs Barnsley
Chelsea will be looking to make a progression to the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup for the fifth time in the last six years when they travel to Oakwell to face Championship side Barnsley this evening, kick-off 8:00pm.
The Blues, who have already faced Barnsley this season, beating them 6-0 in the Carabao Cup back in September, will make their second visit of the week to South Yorkshire looking to take another giant stride towards Wembley.
As well as looking to edge another step nearer towards a second successive FA Cup final, Chelsea will also be looking to maintain their unbeaten start to life under head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Since being appointed as Frank Lampard’s successor just over a fortnight ago, Tuchel has enjoyed an impressive start to life at Stamford Bridge, winning three and drawing one of his first four games in charge. As well as that, the Blues have conceded just one goal in those four matches.
Despite the German’s encouraging start to life in England, this Chelsea vs Barnsley clash will be a completely different experience to those that Tuchel has faced so far, with the FA Cup often capable of producing a surprise when you least expect it.
And with that in mind, Tuchel is refusing to underestimate the Tykes, who have dumped Tranmere Rovers and Norwich City out of the competition so far, insisting his players must “be totally focused” on the task that lies ahead.
“This is an elimination game and we have to be totally focused, totally on point tomorrow when the match starts, and ready to finish with a win. This is the absolute desire.
“There is a high possibility we see a lot of changes. First of all, everybody who is on the pitch tomorrow deserves to be on the pitch. So there will be guys tomorrow who suffered a little bit from my decisions in the last few games.
“And for us, it’s the third away match in a row. We don’t want to lose attention, awareness, and intensity in our game.
“So this is the moment for us to have fresh legs and fresh minds on the pitch, and to have the full intensity needed to secure this win. This is what we aim for.”
Although Tuchel has confirmed that it is likely he will make several changes for the trip to Oakwell, he has hinted that both N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech could start. Kante has featured in half of Tuchel’s matches in charge so far – stepping off the bench against both Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United – whilst Ziyech has not featured in any of the last three games.
“He [Kante] will start tomorrow and, for me, his best position is in a double six,” Tuchel continued. “He can play as a single six, of course, but a strength for him is to have a kind of freedom to use his range and volume.
“As a single six, as in a 4-1-4-1, he has to be more disciplined in his position. He can do this but I think we would be cutting his wings a little bit.”
On Ziyech, Tuchel added: “Hopefully tomorrow we’ll see the best of him. He’s had a good week in training and we count on Hakim like everybody else, there are absolutely no doubts about that.”
The inclusions of Kante and Ziyech in the starting line-up are likely to be just two of several changes that Tuchel is likely to make, with the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Emerson, Billy Gilmour and Tammy Abraham also poised to be hammering on the door in an attempt to force their way into starting line-up.
However, the Blues will definitely be without Timo Werner for the trip to Oakwell after he went off injured against the Blades on Sunday with a dead leg.
Tuchel said: “It is still painful with contact so we didn’t risk it today and we will not risk it tomorrow. He had a huge impact on our games so that’s why we are a bit sad because it would have been also possible to just keep going his momentum and give him a chance to find the net.
“We could have risked it but the decision stands and it is hopefully now for him to recover and be back on Monday.”
Elsewhere, Thiago Silva will also miss out once again, with Tuchel confirming after the win at Bramall Lane that the clash with Barnsley would come too soon for him. Kai Havertz, meanwhile, is also unlikely to feature, with the midfielder not having been spotted in training.
Chelsea vs Barnsley squad
Goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy, Kepa Arrizabalaga & Willy Caballero.
Defenders: Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Ben Chilwell, Marcos Alonso & Emerson Palmieri.
Midfielders: Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount, Lewis Bate, Faustino Anjorin & Christian Pulisic.
Strikers: Tammy Abraham & Olivier Giroud