It's been almost exactly 19 months since a Chelsea match was off TV broadcast, and not just in the UK (which happens a fair amount thanks to the Saturday 3pm rule), but all around the world (which rarely happens). That day, January 24th, 2015, has lived on as a hilarious footnote to a double-winning season, with League One Bradford City coming from two down to win 4-2 at Stamford Bridge. It should've been the stuff of legends, but alas, nobody saw it.
Bradford City have remained in League One and currently sit 3rd, fifteen spots above tonight's opponents, Bristol Rovers, who visit Stamford Bridge for the first time since October 1980 when they lost 2-0 in front of 13,000 supporters. 'The Gas' finished bottom of the old Division 2 that year and in the quarter of a century since then, only poked their heads above the third tier for a brief few years in the early '90s.
Tonight's match may not be sold out (walk-up tickets at £25 a pop are available until 4pm!), but at least there will be more than 13,000 in the stands. The rest of us will have to make do with radio, which, despite the best efforts of the Chelsea TV usuals, is a poor substitute.
Date / Time: Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 19:45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Keith Stroud — an unfamiliar name, but as it turns out, Mr. Stroud did referee a Chelsea match once before, our 1-1 draw and subsequent elimination on penalties at home against Burnley in the fourth round of the 2008-09 League Cup. It was the beginning of the end for Big Phil Scolari, who would soon go on a disastrous 4-wins-from-12 run in the league.
On TV: none (Chelsea TV will have delayed broadcast at some point in the next 24-48 hours.)
Chelsea team news: Apparently we're not bothering to hold a pre-match press conference for this one, though the only real question over the squad is how bad Willian's calf problem may be that kept him out of the Watford match on Saturday. Zouma is out long-term still and Mikel is not expected to rejoin the squad until after the international break coming up next week.
What is going to be very interesting is just how much will Conte rotate the squad. Chelsea have had just two full days of rest and will have another match on Saturday, so this game should be the perfect opportunity for the likes of Batshuayi, Moses, Chalobah, and Loftus-Cheek (and Fabregas?) to get a start.
Bristol Rovers team news: Rovers are off to slow start with just one win in four in League One, but they did eliminate Championship side Cardiff City to set up this tie at the Bridge. Manager Darrell Clarke is wants another upset.
"Everyone will enjoy the experience but I will only enjoy it if we win the game. We aren't going there for a day out."
"I hope that I have programmed the players better than for them to think that Tuesday night is merely about taking a few selfies at Stamford Bridge."
Incidentally, new Rovers owner Wael Al-Qadi is a big Chelsea fan, having grown up in London in the 70s and 80s. He bought Rovers in February of this year.
Previously: Face your fears; here are the "highlights" of the Bradford City FA Cup loss mentioned at the top.