Lightning Won’t Strike Blues Twice at Oakwell

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Two FA Cup fifth round ties to enjoy on Thursday as Wolves host Southampton while Chelsea head to Barnsley hoping history won't repeat itself.

Thomas Tuchel has his Chelsea side in good form with three wins from four matches.

Chelsea return to the site on one of their most infamous defeats when they travel to South Yorkshire to face Barnsley in the FA Cup fifth round on Thursday evening.

The Blues were the cup holders the last time they visited Oakwell in 2008, only for the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Michael Ballack, who started that night, to be ousted 1-0 by the Championship side.

The Tykes are sniffing another giant-killing after some decent results of late but this version of Chelsea look to be made of much sterner stuff since Thomas Tuchel took charge and should have no issues in advancing.

Tykes Bark Worse Than Their Bite

Tuchel has settled in well since replacing Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge dugout in January, winning three out of four matches in the Premier League. Those results have lifted Chelsea to within a point of the top-four, Tuchel’s main goal for the season.

A piece of silverware to go with Champions League qualification would be nice though and the Blues are 6/1 to win the FA Cup, a competition they have done very well in recently, reaching the final in three of the last four seasons.

The West Londoners’ have managed to successful sidestep these potential banana skins in the FA Cup in the past, losing just two of their last 54 ties to lower-league opposition with their most recent upset being the 4-2 home loss to Bradford City in 2015.

Despite the threat of an upset, Tuchel is likely to rotate with Kepa Arrizabalaga set to start in goal, while Hakim Ziyech and Tammy Abraham are poised to feature. Even if Tuchel makes a multitude of changes, the strength in depth of this Chelsea squad means they should have too much quality for their Championship opponents.

Chelsea are 2/9 favourites for the win, while Barnsley are a massive 12/1 to repeat the achievements of the class of 08.

That victory over Chelsea 13 years ago saw the Tykes advance to the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Cardiff, and the club haven’t got anywhere near repeating that level of success in the Cup since.

They also haven’t got close to claiming another Premier League scalp, facing top-flight opposition five times since that quarter-final success and losing all five matches, four of them without scoring.

However, they do at least enter this game in decent form with no defeat in their last three matches, while they’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this game having last played on January 30th.

That mini-break has allowed defender Toby Sibbick and midfielder Romal Palmer to recover from minor injuries and both are available to head coach Valerien Ismael.

Barnsley have already found out how dangerous Chelsea can be once this season when losing 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in the EFL Cup. While the Tykes should be better prepared this time, the Blues should still have too much class for them and over 2.5 Chelsea goals at 20/21 appeals.

Few Thrills at Molineux

Thursday’s early kick-off in the FA Cup is an all-Premier League affair as Wolves and Southampton face off at Molineux for what will be the first of two meetings between the sides in the space of four days.

Both teams have found wins hard to come by of late, each winning three of their previous 12 matches, while they played out a 1-1 draw in the league meeting in November.

Sharing the spoils has become something of Wolves specialty in the last 18 months as they drew a league-high 14 matches in the Premier League last season, while their tally of six is the fourth highest in the division this term.

That partly speaks to Nuno Espirito Santo’s men being a tough side to break down, as Leicester found out at the weekend as they were held to a goalless draw. Nuno went for three central defenders and wing-backs for that game, a formation which seems to suit his team more but limits their attacking ability.

They might get a bit of joy against a leaky Southampton side though, who have lost their last four matches, conceding a total of 16 goals in the process, albeit a lot of those came in the 9-0 loss to Manchester United.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men are desperate for a positive result after such a poor run and will no doubt try to keep things tight, with this tie potentially going all the way to penalties. A draw after 90 minutes is 23/10 and that could prove the safe option for what should be a cagey affair.

*All odds correct at time of writing

Chris is broadcast and written journalist with a wealth of experience, across a number of different sports. As well covering football on the radio, he is a regular online and print contributor on the likes of rugby union, American Football and Formula One.

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