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Predicted Chelsea lineup against Stoke City: Finding faith in youth, debuts, and last chances

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Most eyes may be on Saturday already, with Liverpool and Specialist in Draws, Top-Top Klopp coming to town in a crucial match for both managers.  Jurgen Klopp might be satisfied with a draw, but for Jose Mourinho, it will be a must-win.  It might even be a must-win in terms of Mourinho's job.

But before all that, we have to travel up to the Britannia on a not quite cold but certainly rainy Tuesday night to face Stoke City in the 4th round of the League Cup.  Predicting the lineup for this semi-important match could be tough under normal circumstances.  With Chelsea in a self-imposed media blackout, and with the weekend's result once again plunging the narrative into the depths of football hell, it's nigh impossible.

Let's try anyway.  We rotated quite heavily in the previous round against Walsall, and while Stoke City are certainly better than the League One side, I would think we'll still follow a similar blueprint.  Let's not forget that Mourinho also promised to play the youth if we continue losing.

In goal, after 10 straight, mostly solid outings from Asmir Begovic, it's probably time to give new signing Marco Amelia a chance at proper match action, just in case he's needed in the near future, before Thibaut Courtois returns from knee surgery.

In defense, assuming that Branislav Ivanovic remains injured and Ola Aina won't be asked to play 24 hours after completing a match for the Chelsea U21s*, we will most likely see Cesar Azpilicueta and Baba Rahman line up as right and left fullbacks, respectively.  Central defense is far less clear, and I could easily see just about any combination of Terry, Cahill, Zouma, and Djilobodji get the nod.  Let's say Djilo gets the nod to make his full debut, just for the fun of it, and he gets paired with the semi-mobile experience of Gary Cahill who tends to be better in a covering role anyway.

* Others involved Monday against Manchester City U21 included Charly Musonda, Charlie Colkett, Jake Clarke-Salter, and Tammy Abraham, so we can safely rule them out as surprise participants on Tuesday.

With Nemanja Matic suspended and Cesc Fabregas suddenly prone to early substitutions, the midfield should certainly contain a Ruben Loftus-Cheek, possibly paired with John Obi Mikel.  Further ahead, Oscar should find his way out of the doghouse to get a start at the no.10 spot.  I'd pencil in Ramires normally as well, but the suddenly preferred midfield has started 7 in a row and is probably due a short rest.

This leaves three attacking positions to be filled by quite a few possible candidates.  Should either Pedro or Loic Remy become available after missing time with unspecified knocks, I could easily see them starting.   There are also the two youngsters Kenedy and Bertrand Traore (still looking for his full debut) who could very well see some action from the start.  Our usual big names are likely to just start on the bench as has been the case in previous League Cup campaign under Mourinho.

Putting all that together, we get the following predicted lineup:

4-2-3-1:
Amelia | Baba, Cahill, Djilobodji, Azpilicueta | Mikel, Loftus-Cheek | Kenedy, Oscar, Pedro/Traore | Remy/Traore/Falcao (depending on injury status)

---

As far as the community's preferred choice goes, the voting had assumed that none of our injured four from Saturday would be available.

4-2-3-1:
Begovic | Baba, Cahill, Zouma, Azpilicueta | Mikel, Loftus-Cheek | Kenedy, Oscar, Willian | Costa/Falcao (too close to call)

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