Can Chelsea continue to compete on two fronts when they travel to Wolves this weekend? The Blues are facing a team who have already claimed two Premier League scalps this season, which puts them in a tough position. While the visitors are the big favourites and they are expected to win with a rotated squad, they’re facing a team who have belief against top flight opposition, at a ground which will be packed full of fans hoping for a cup shock. Can Antonio Conte break hearts at Molineux on Saturday evening? A win here would be a major step towards a potential league and cup double.
This is the toughest test the Blues have faced in the FA Cup this year, after home ties against Peterborough and Brentford. However, they’ll be happy to face off against Championship opposition again, as long as they can record a similar result. We know not to expect the strongest 11 on the field here, but that can be said of both sides. Is this the end of Wolves’ fantastic FA Cup run, or are they going to claim a win over the Premier League leaders and book a place in the quarter finals?
Team News: Conte likely to ring changes ahead of this trip
Conte has made consistent changes in the FA Cup so far, despite not having to juggle European games alongside their push for the title. The lack of Champions League or Europa League duties mean that the fringe players need game time, as evidenced by Kurt Zouma’s recent comments about possibly leaving the club. The defender basically revealed that he has been promised minutes in the cup by the manager, so expect to see the big defender slot into central defence for this trip, possibly in place of David Luiz or Gary Cahill.
Given how Conte has rotated, we expect to see John Terry back, along with Nathan Ake. Hopefully Ruben Loftus-Cheek will get a little more time on the pitch, while Cesc Fabregas and Willian have both done enough for inclusion. At a certain point, the manager is likely to start fielding some first team stars in the cup, but that’s not likely to start until the quarter finals, should the Blues progress this weekend. Until then, expect the top names to be given a break ahead of their next Premier League outing.
Wolves come here without defender Mike Williamson, plus Michal Zyro and Jordan Graham are both ruled out. Despite being 18th in the Championship table, Paul Lambert is likely to make changes of his own for this clash. Even in their previous victories over Premier League outfits Stoke and Liverpool, Wolves named a rotated side from the start. That shows where their priorities are, while it also sends out a worrying message about the importance of the FA Cup. Their cup heroes so far, Andi Weimann and Helder Costa, should both feature in this clash.
Wolves head into this game struggling in the Championship, despite their big money takeover last summer. They’ve spent quite a bit in the second tier, and tried to pull off some big moves, but former Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert was brought in to stabilise the club. Back to back defeats have left them in trouble, as they’re just six points above the drop zone. They could be set for a dreaded relegation into the third tier, not long after stating their aim to make the top flight.
Part of Wolves’ troubles this season has been their home form. They head into this cup tie having pulled off both their shocks away from home, which explains how they were able to beat top flight opposition. They’ve lost half of their Championship games at Molineux this season, conceding 1.64 goals per game and picking up just 1.07 points per match. That’s not good enough to trouble Chelsea, they’ll have to up their game in order to cause another shock on Saturday.
Wolves v Chelsea Head to Head
These sides haven’t met since 2012, the last encounter being a painful one for the side from the West Midlands. As one would expect, Chelsea have had the better of the most recent meetings between the pair.
- Chelsea 6-0 Wolves, Sept 2012
- Wolves 1-2 Chelsea, Jan 2012
- Chelsea 3-0 Wolves, Nov 2011
- Wolves 1-0 Chelsea, Jan 2011
- Chelsea 2-0 Wolves, Oct 2010
- Both teams to score – 17/20 with Coral
- Chelsea -1.5 Asian Handicap – 43/40 with Bet365
The Blues are the obvious favourites, priced at 4/11 with BetVictor, while the hosts are 13/2 with Sky Bet to cause a shock. There’s quite a gulf between the two sides, which is all too clear judging by their differing league campaigns. While the cup is the great leveller, can it really put a side fighting relegation to League One up against the Premier League leaders and see a shock? It’s hard to see anything but an away win, although those 4/11 odds aren’t exactly great value.
While the Blues are heavy favourites, we can still see them conceding a goal here. They’re up against a team who have recently recorded cup shocks, plus they’re a side with nothing to lose. Wolves never thought they’d get this far, and now they have a huge game against the potential champions of England. They should have a go at this rotated Chelsea defence, and we’re backing them to score, given that they’ve found the net in 70% of their league games this season, and scored four times in two away trips to top flight teams.
However, we’re backing the gulf in quality to shine through in the final score. The Blues have scored four times in each of their FA Cup games so far, winning by at least three goals in each. They’ve won by two or more in 63% of their league victories, and they should find things easier against the Championship’s second worst home record. That has us backing the visitors with a -1.5 Asian Handicap, which is priced at a decent 43/40 with Bet365.