For a minute, I was all excited that we would be facing brand new opposition never before seen lining up opposite the Blues. Turns out, I was way off the mark. This will be Chelsea's 12th meeting all time with Walsall.
Having been around since
2003 1905, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that we've played against the vast majority of teams in the top four divisions of English football at one point or another. Not all of those remain in league football of course, but of the 92 teams currently in the Premier League and Football League, only 7 or maybe 8 (depending on whether we'd count Burton United as part of Burton Albion's heritage) would've provided a brand new experience today. Six are recently promoted teams from non-league — Yeovil Town, Fleetwood Town, Crawley Town, Dag & Red, Morecambe, Stevenage — while the seventh are MK Dons, a club who have in fact existed for only about a ten years.
Perhaps it's for the best that this will not be an historic occasion. The vast majority of us, those not among the traveling 1500 or the local 9500 fans, will most likely be reduced to listening to the match on the radio, its wholly non-descriptive play-by-play making a poor substitute for the moving pictures that have spoiled us so over the past many decades. So we've got that going for us, which is ... not that nice, actually. Oh well.
Walsall FC are the Saddlers, a nod to the Birmingham suburb's legacy of saddle-making. So giddy on up. Save a horse, ride a Falcao.
Date / Time: Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 19:45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am (India)
Venue: Bescot Stadium, Walsall, England
Referee: Lee Mason — the referee voted Most Likely to Be Confused for a Used Car Salesman 10 years in a row will be officiating his 21st Chelsea game. We last saw him on the final day of last season. He's taken charge of two Chelsea matches in the League Cup before, both went to extra time (5-4 vs. Manchester United in 2012 and 2-1 vs. Everton the season prior).
Forecast: Occasional rain or drizzle or hill fog, which may be something out of a horror movie.
"Weather:" Driver on the Wing
On TV: none (UK/USA); Ten Cricket (India); elsewhere
Online: BBC 5 Live (radio); Chelsea TV (radio); beIN Sport Connect (USA)
Walsall team news: The Saddlers have galloped through two rounds of this competition already, beating competition from higher tiers in both round one (Nottingham Forest) and round two (Brighton & Hove Albion). They will try to make it three-for-three upsets with Chelsea. They're also going strong in League One, currently just a point behind leaders Burton Albion (who are managed by the one and only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink).
The one confirmed injury for Walsall is a knee problem for midfielder Isaiah Osbourne. Big man and leading scorer Tom Bradshaw will start up top, while Neil "abundance of confidence" Etheridge will be in goal. They also have a dude from St. Kitts, a lovely country I got to visit this summer. So that's cool. Milan Lalković may not start, but he'll probably be involved in some capacity.
Chelsea team news: Thibaut Courtois's out. Diego Costa begins his three-match suspension. Willian (hamstring) may or may not be fit. John Terry and Radamel Falcao are set to start, the rest is anyone's guess. Here's our best guess, which involves plenty of youngsters, rotation, and debuts.
Previously: Walsall's one and only victory in 11 matches against Chelsea came in 1963. The two sides have met in the League Cup on three different occasions, Chelsea advancing each and every time.