The season's campaign opens up on another front but Stamford Bridge remains the venue, for the third game in a week. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready for the re-named competition…
Chelsea are the Barclays Premier League leaders, unbeaten domestically in six matches. No team in the top four tiers of English league football has a better defensive record - just two goals conceded.
Wolves played us twice as a Premier League side last season, they were beaten 5-1 on aggregate, and dropped to the Championship with just 25 points in May.
They arrive in pretty confident mood having won three league games on the spin under manager Ståle Solbakken. Blues fans will remember him as the boss of Copenhagen, who drew at the Bridge in the 2010/11 Champions League Round of 16, Chelsea having won the first leg 2-0 at Parken.
He has mostly fielded strong teams in this competition so far, overcoming Aldershot in the first round and midland rivals Leicester City, also top third of Championship, in the second.
Solbakken will hope to catch the European Champions on an off-night, but may be surprised by the appetite for this trophy at the Bridge: only Liverpool and Aston Villa have won the League Cup more times than Chelsea - the first London club ever to lift it, in 1965.
If Wolves imagine they will face a team of fledglings they will be disappointed, though some less regular players will figure.
Last season, against Premier League and local rivals Fulham Ryan Bertrand, Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu kicked off their Chelsea careers, and Paulo Ferreira and Josh McEachran were in the starting line-up for the first time that season.
Petr Cech was one of just two to have featured in the previous weekend's league game along with Daniel Sturridge. There was experience on the bench, and John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ross Turnbull were called on in a 4-3 penalty shout-out win that was all the more creditable as Alex had been sent off early in the second half.
The Blues fielded a stronger side for the next round at Everton, a 2-1 extra-time win. Bertrand, Lukaku, McEachran and Romeu started again and Terry was omitted as a fifth yellow card received would have meant him missing an Arsenal clash the following weekend.
It was Turnbull's turn to be red carded, with Cech emerging from the bench to save the resulting penalty. Substitute Sturridge netted the winner for the 10 men in extra time.
By loose coincidence, Chelsea bowed out of last season's tournament following a league victory over tonight's opponents. Romeu retained his League Cup place at home to Liverpool in central midfield and Bertrand impressed at left-back; Lukaku began upfront again.
Turnbull saved Andy Carroll's penalty but Liverpool won 2-0 at the Bridge. Roberto Di Matteo - Andre Villas-Boas's assistant throughout the campaign - will be anxious not repeat the disappointment.
The three games handed excellent game time to Lukaku, Romeu, and, most notably, Bertrand, who of course went on to earn a place in the Premier League, and ultimately to start in the Champions League final.
With that Munich game in mind, how valuable psychologically were the winning of the shootout against Fulham, and the penalty saves in other games by Turnbull and Cech?
The League Cup may not be the competition with the greatest prestige, but it can serve an immensely valuable purpose. And in a season of transition, new players and new systems can be tried out with less at stake.
It is also another chance to win silverware - and Chelsea have already stumbled in two of those opportunities this season.
If the scores are level after 90 minutes, 30 minutes extra time will be played. If there is still no winner the tie will be decided on penalties.
The draw for the fourth round is on Wednesday night around 10pm, carried live on Sky Sports.
|2012/13 Championship table|
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WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea and Wolves have never previously met in the League Cup. Our three knockout encounters have all been in the FA Cup.
The most memorable was in 1994, when manager Glenn Hoddle steered the Blues to our first FA Cup semi-final since 1970 in his first season. He played a significant part on the pitch himself, coming on in midfield for sciatica sufferer John Spencer after 20 minutes and calming nerves, displaying the magisterial distribution of old.
Wolves midfielder Darren Ferguson had warned that his wily father - Alex - had passed on a dossier of how First Division Wanderers could win at the Bridge. Happily the Blues outstripped the blueprint.
The game was decided by a single goal. Gavin Peacock was pushed forward alongside makeshift frontman David Hopkin when Hoddle came off the bench and just inside the hour mark the home side's pressure paid off.
Dennis Wise was found by a Hoddle ball. The skipper fed Craig Burley down the right and the ball played continued into the box to Peacock, who sharply controlled, turned and poked past Mike Stowell.
It must have rung a bell with the Wolves players from the Fergie dossier - the Chelsea man had scored the winner in similar fashion at Old Trafford a week earlier. Hoddle led Chelsea to the final that year, against Manchester United.
Chelsea are hoping for a sixth successive home win against Wolves in all competitions. First half goals from John Terry, Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata secured a 3-0 win when Wolves last travelled here 10 months ago in the Premier League.
Chelsea TV pundits Tommy Langley and Clive Walker were playing the last time Wolves won at Stamford Bridge in March 1979, a few weeks before we were relegated to the old Second Division. Langley opened the scoring but goals from John Richards and Bill Rafferty secured a 2-1 win for the visitors.
Previous Cup meetings
FA Cup 3rd round 25 February 1911
FA Cup 3rd round 14 January 1928
FA Cup quarter-final 13 March 1994
Chelsea …………………1 Wolves.…………………0
Chelsea v Wolves in all competitions
Games played 103
Chelsea wins 39
Wolves wins 38
Biggest win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 6-2 Wolves - 30/08/1958
Chelsea 1-5 Wolves - 30/04/1960
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