Boss insists upcoming Chelsea tie won't be a distraction...WALSALL’s eagerly-awaited cup tie with Chelsea may be just six days away - but manager Dean Smith insists everyone is fully focused on the league ahead of Saturday’s visit to Peterborough.
The Saddlers, who are second in League One, have also fared well in the Capital One Cup this season – claiming the Championship scalps of Brighton and Nottingham Forest.
Our reward is a third round clash with the Premier League champions – and League Cup holders – Chelsea at the Banks’s Stadium next Wednesday (23rd September).
Excitement is building ahead of the match, which is approaching a sell-out.
But with a trip to Peterborough first up this weekend, Smith says the squad are concentrating solely on them – and not on Jose Mourinho’s star-studded Chelsea side.
“The complete focus is on Peterborough,” said Smith.
“It’s about going and winning the game there – I won’t start thinking about Chelsea until I need to.
“The players are fully focused, and our start in the league has helped with that – seeing where we could be if we keep winning games – and the fact we’re performing well.
“We’ve had to talk about it (the Chelsea game) because there’s been a lot of interest in it, and the players have wanted to get their tickets sorted (for friends and family) out early too.
“But we’re fully focused on the campaign so far and that will continue.”
Smith’s Saddlers can go top of League One with victory at the ABAX Stadium (traditionally known as London Road), depending on leaders Gillingham’s result at Colchester.
Peterborough are likely to pose a tricky test, though, after thrashing Oldham 5-1 in Grant McCann’s first match in caretaker charge.
McCann has stepped in for Dave Robertson, who became the first managerial departure of the new season, and Smith was sad to see him go.
“It was a very early casualty and it’s not nice to see anyone lose their job,” said Smith.
“I saw Dave yesterday on an LMA masterclass course at St George’s Park. It’s always disappointing to see someone lose their job so early, but they got a reaction from the players with a resounding win at Oldham. Unfortunately, that cost the Oldham manager his job as well.
“I’ve come across Grant a few times and he will want to get a performance again that can heighten his claims for the manager’s role.
“Last week, we played Doncaster, who were also managerless, and you’re never too sure what teams are going to go with when someone new comes in.”
The Saddlers are the only team in League One with a 100% away record.
And after impressive victories at Southend (2-0), Rochdale (2-1) and Blackpool (4-0), Smith is targeting more success on the road.
“We want to go there and give a good account of ourselves,” he said.
“Our performances have been very good all season – with the exception of half an hour against Oldham on the opening day.
“We need to make sure we continue those good performance to get the right result.”
Isaiah Osbourne is unavailable this weekend after twisting his knee in training. The former Aston Villa midfielder is expected to be out for six to seven days.
Smith has no other injury concerns.