Chelsea next in line for the Barnsley boot
Tuesday 19 February 2008
The last and only time Barnsley played Chelsea in the FA Cup, in the third round in 1989, the Yorkshire side won 4-0 and it was not such a shock, even though Chelsea were on their way to the title: it was the old Second Division title, and Barnsley had a good season in the same tier that year.
Yesterday's sixth-round draw threw the pair together again, in a game to be played at Oakwell, where Chelsea were 6-0 winners in their last visit, in the Premiership in 1997. For Barnsley, the tie is due reward for ousting Liverpool on Saturday. For holders Chelsea it represents a plum match-up perceived as simple enough by some bookmakers for them to make Avram Grant's team the new slight favourites for the trophy.
Manchester United, last season's runners-up, held that status before being drawn against Premier League opposition in the form of Portsmouth, albeit at Old Trafford. It is the 11th time in succession that United will play a fellow top-flight side in the Cup. With United and Chelsea kept apart at this stage, the prospect remains of the first repeat Cup final for 123 years.
At least one semi-finalist from outside the elite is guaranteed. Bristol Rovers of League One, who knocked out Southampton on Saturday, will face Championship high-flyers, West Bromwich Albion. Completing the draw, Cardiff City, in the quarters for the first time since they won the Cup in 1927, will travel to face either Sheffield United or Middlesbrough.
"We wanted a home tie and to get Chelsea is brilliant," Barnsley's manager, Simon Davey, said. "We've got a fantastic home record at the moment and hopefully we can continue it and get into the semi-finals."
Brian Howard, who scored the last-minute winner at Anfield in a 2-1 win, said: "It's another unbelievable tie. We went to Anfield and now this is another test, the holders coming here to defend their crown. The whole place will be buzzing. With the magic of the cup, you never know what could happen."
Howard, 25, spent a brief spell training with Chelsea in 2003 before moving to Swindon and then Barnsley. "I had three or four months there [at Chelsea] and then Roman Abramovich came in and signed pretty much the best players in the world," said the former England Under-20 midfielder. "It will be nice to prove to them I'm good enough to play."
FA Cup draw
Sheffield United or Middlesbrough v Cardiff City
Manchester United v Portsmouth
Bristol Rovers v West Bromwich Albion
Barnsley v Chelsea
To be played 8/9 March.
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