Two players who were ever-present before their respective injuries, Branislav Ivanovic and new signing Pedro, are back in contention for Chelsea and (still) manager Jose Mourinho for Wednesday night's crucial Dynamo Kiev clash at Stamford Bridge. If it seems like every match is crucial nowadays, well, that's because they are -- even if we ignore all the brouhaha around the manager himself.
Halfway through the group stages, Chelsea have only one win and four points. The second half is the easier schedule for us, with home dates against the two other good teams in the group and an away match against Maccabi Tel-Aviv. If we are to secure a spot in the knockout rounds, we couldn't have asked for a better arrangement. Of course, nothing's gone to plan so far this season, but that can't continue on forever, can it?
Ivanovic's return could provide a better solution than the one we've been using in his absence, and would allow Kurt Zouma to play center back once again, probably replacing John Terry, who reminded us all on Saturday that his best days are well behind him. Not that Gary Cahill was tremendously better, but he and Zouma seemed to be our best center back options earlier this season, and it could be helpful not just for this season but for the future as well to see that partnership develop.
Otherwise, given how well we played in the first meeting with Dynamo, I would not expect any more changes from the lineup that day. Azpilicueta shut down Yarmolenko, Ramires and Matic actually controlled the midfield, and both Hazard and Willian found some joy on the wings. We do have options in Ruben Loftus-Cheek, should Matic remain in the doghouse, and Pedro, should Hazard join the big Serbian there, but I don't think that'll happen on this day.
With that in mind, and assuming Mourinho doesn't just troll us with a lineup full of 16-year-olds from the academy, I'm expecting the following. And hoping that they will match recent performances (by and large) with an actual result, too, this time. Keep in mind, I've not been very good at these recently.
Begovic | Azpilicueta, Cahill, Zouma, Ivanovic | Matic, Ramires | Hazard, Fabregas, Willian | Costa
In the community voting, the preferred formation is up for debate -- lots of flexibility with Ramires, RLC, and Oscar in there -- but the eleven highest vote-getters are as follows (with Terry just missing out by a few votes to Ramires).
Begovic | Baba, Cahill, Zouma, Azpilicueta | Matic, Loftus-Cheek, Ramires | Oscar, Costa, Willian