In terms of priorities, care, or even general interest, the League Cup (now in its fourth year as the Carabao Cup) ranks just about lowest on the list. Once teams reach the latter rounds, those priorities tend to shift, but especially early on, these games are often regarded as nuisance, or, to put it more mildly, an opportunity to play the kids and backups.
Many in fact expected this year’s edition to get canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the compressed 2020-21 football season, but money speaks and the games (all single-legged without any extra time) remain on. Well, at least most of them. At least one, Spurs’ matchup against fourth division Leyton Orient yesterday, has been canceled due to multiple positive coronavirus tests at Orient, with Spurs likely receiving a bye into the next round (not yet official), where they will meet the winners of this very match.
Like Spurs, Chelsea paid for second division Barnsley’s coronavirus testing since neither the EFL nor the FA mandate regular testing for lower league teams. As far as we know at this point, the game’s set to go ahead so hopefully those tests came back negative. We’ve already had enough quarantines to deal with and the season’s barely a month old.
Date / Time: Wednesday, September 23, 2020, 19.45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Darren Bond (on pitch); not sure who’s manning the VAR system, or if VAR’s even being used. Official Carabao Cup rules only mandate it for semifinals and finals, and make it optional for earlier rounds at grounds that already have the tech (goal-line or video review) installed. Chelsea obviously have both of those installed, but reports conflict as to whether they will be used.
Forecast: Cooler and breezy, with a decent chance of rain
On TV: none (UK); none (USA); none (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: CarabaoCup.live (UK: £10); ESPN+ (USA); JioTV (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).
Chelsea team news: Frank Lampard confirmed that Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell will be part of the matchday squad for the first time in their Chelsea careers, and the former could very well get the start as well. The news was less good on Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, though they both posted a picture on Instagram yesterday with the caption “soon come”, so they are probably getting close(r).
Perhaps more interesting than the injury situation will be whether Callum Hudson-Odoi and/or Antonio Rüdiger get the start. Lampard is looking to use this match as a fitness exercise above all else for the first-team (thanks to our practically non-existent preseason), but he didn’t exactly confirm that those two are still part of said first-team for the long-term when asked about their futures in the pre-match press conference.
One player who will definitely miss the game is Andreas Christensen, who will be serving his one-match ban after Sunday’s red card. That 2-0 defeat to Liverpool left a sour taste in the mouth, so we have a great chance to rinse that out with some low-key and low-pressure fun. (But let’s not lose please.)
Barnsley team news: Barnsley barely survived relegation from the Championship last season after their promotion from League One the season prior — only kept up by Wigan Athletic’s points deduction — and they’re certainly hoping to avoid such drama this season. So far, so not good in that regard, with two losses from two without a single goal scored (0-1, 0-2), though they have won twice in the Carabao Cup to get this far, and without conceding (1-0, 2-0).
Primed for an upset?
Head coach Gerhard Struber is expected to rotate, but he’s got a plan, his players got the spirit, and luck can be a fickle thing. As usual in these situations, all the pressure is on Chelsea; for Barnsley, this is a freebie and a nice day out. And that often leads to silly things.
And just to add to football writers’ wildest dreams, former Chelsea prospect Brad Collins is expected to be in goal for the Reds tonight. (And young midfielder Isaac Christie-Davies could feature as well.)
“To get a chance to play against Chelsea is amazing really, not just for me but for the whole team.
“I grew up there, I was there for many years. It was a great learning curve for me but I was never going to get an opportunity to play so I had to get out. But I did learn a lot, and we won everything there was to win in the youth teams.
“It’s good to go back. There’s a lot of familiar faces there but that stuff can wait until after the game.”
-Brad Collins; source: Barnsley FC
Previously: Speaking of silly things, some might remember a night back in 2008, when Chelsea went to Oakwell for an FA Cup quarterfinal and came home humbled in a 1-0 defeat. Here’s how that, our only game against Barnsley in the last 22 years, went down. (Barnsley’s magical run, which saw them also eliminate Liverpool, ended in a semifinal defeat to Cardiff City.)