High-flying Wolves will face a stern test when they host runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
The last time these teams met was in a League Cup tie in 2012 when the Blues thrashed Wolves 6-0 with strikes from Gary Cahill, Ryan Bertrand, Juan Mata, Oriol Romeu, Fernando Torres and Victor Moses.
This will be the 105th meeting in 111 years between the sides, but only the fourth time in the FA Cup. The previous encounters came in 1911, 1928 and 1994.
A magnificent 2-1 win over Liverpool last month put Wolverhampton in the fifth round for the first time since 2008. Goals from Richard Stearman and Andreas Weimann gave them their biggest FA Cup win since beating Newcastle United in 2003. Paul Lambert’s side have now beaten two Premier League sides away from home in the competition, having knocked Stoke City out too.
The Old Gold have nothing to lose with Antonio Conte’s men overwhelming favourites to reach the quarter-finals. Wolves, who are 18th in the EFL Championship, have lost back-to-back matches in the league, going down 2-1 at Burton Albion and 1-0 at home to Newcastle United last Saturday.
They are yet to host Wigan Athletic on Tuesday, at the time of writing. They’re not in a position to rest key players against the Latics, which could be crucial against a fit and firing Chelsea. It will take a special performance to knock out the eight-time FA Cup holders. Wolves still hold claim to handing Chelsea their worst-ever defeat: 8-1 away in September 1953.
Wolves will be relying on a big performance from their club record signing Helder Costa. The Portuguese winger was the man of the match against Liverpool, setting up both goals and going very close to scoring a wonder solo goal. Former Aston Villa man Weimann is another player Chelsea will have to be wary of as he is quick, loves to go at defenders and has an eye for goal.
Chelsea will be looking to return to winning ways following their 1-1 draw at Burnley last Sunday. Leading up to the game, the Premier League leaders are unbeaten in seven matches with five wins, scoring 18 goals while conceding four.
Conte will be wary of the upset-threat posed by Wolves, but the Italian has far more depth in his squad than Liverpool, though. Jurgen Klopp paid the price for making so many changes to his usual lineup. Conte, on the other hand, made the same number of changes but still crushed a similarly situated Championship club. Chelsea are blessed with greater talent and they look stronger, faster and more determined.
Conte fielded second-string sides in third and fourth round wins against Peterborough and Brentford, winning by a combined scoreline of 8-1. However, their lineup will only get stronger the further they progress in the competition.
Asmir Begovic, who almost joined Bournemouth on transfer deadline day, is likely to keep his place between the sticks, while Nathan Ake, John Terry, Kurt Zouma, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Willian are all expected to feature. Chelsea rejected a host of loan offers last month for Charly Musonda and Kenedy, the highly-rated duo could be surprise inclusions on the bench.
Belgium international Michy Batshuayi is expected to retain his place ahead of Diego Costa following impressive performances in the competition where he has two goals and two assists so far. Pedro has been Chelsea’s standout performer in the FA Cup, scoring three goals with two assists. He’ll be looking to cause Wolves problems with his blistering pace, trickery and goal threat.
The match will be played on Ake’s 22nd birthday and the talented Dutch defender will be hoping for a clean sheet as well as an impressive performance.
Ikeme; Coady, Stearman, Hause, Doherty; Evans, Saville; Costa, Edwards, Weimann; Dicko.
Begovic; Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta; Pedro, Fabregas, Kante, Ake; Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Willian.
Prediction: Pedro to Score Anytime & Chelsea Win (22/10)
Wolves are struggling in the Championship, while Chelsea are flying high at top of the Premier League table. The Blues have world class players that are superior to Wolves in all departments. I’m going for Pedro to Score Anytime & Chelsea Win.