Jose Mourinho loves the League Cup. Accordingly, he's tended to field very strong lineups, even when facing lower division opposition in the earlier rounds of the competition. That trend is set to continue, to a certain extent in any case.I don't see reasons to throw away any competition,' Mourinho told the official Chelsea website at Cobham today.
"A cup is a cup. A trophy is a trophy. If you lose, you lose but you don't need to throw it away."
"So yes, we look to the competition in a proper way, and I also think it's very important to respect opponents. I don't think opponents from the Championship, League One or League Two expect the big clubs to go and play against them without the best players. They want a big day for themselves. Imagine if we go to Walsall without any one of our most important players - even if they won I don't think the feeling would be the same. For Walsall players and Walsall supporters it's important the big teams show that respect and that commitment."
"In the FA Cup we lost against a League One club [Bradford], which can happen. Walsall are a good team. They are playing well and trying to be promoted. For them it's a big occasion and as I was saying, it's important to respect them and to go with a good team with the desire to win."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
That said, Mourinho obviously will not field the same lineup as against Arsenal, not with matches coming at us every three-four days across three different competitions. Some rotation is to be expected, especially with many of the backups and squad players proving themselves quite capable last week against Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
The only two confirmed starters for tomorrow, however, are two veterans.
"It's a good opportunity for the people who are not playing so much and so it's important for them that you win and you play again, because if you don't play again there are fewer opportunities for some players to play. Of course John's experience will help. He didn't play the last match so he is completely fresh and completely motivated to play, the same as Falcao for example."
"Chelsea is Chelsea, and wearing the Chelsea shirt always brings responsibility. Every player is more than happy to play."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
John Terry will no doubt treat this match as any fringe player would, regardless of age, a chance to prove himself to the manager, a chance to force the manager into tough decisions the next time he has to pick a lineup.
As far as the rest of the lineup, the manager is faced with a few interesting decisions. Do we give Chelsea debuts to young Jamal Blackman in goal, to Ola Aina at full back, or to mystery man Papy Djilobodji in central defense? Which one of Kenedy and Bertrand Traore gets to start/play? Could they both start? With that in mind, here's my, perhaps a bit too bold guess at the starting lineup against Walsall.
GK: Jamal Blackman (kid needs actual game-time if we're to use him as our backup until Courtois returns)
D: Baba Rahman, John Terry, Papy Djilobodji (playing Cahill would be hilarious, Zouma could use a rest; plus, if we're ever going to play Big Papy, now's the chance), Ola Aina (been training with the first-team most of the season)
M: Ruben Loftus-Cheek, John Obi Mikel (or perhaps Ramires)
AM: Kenedy, Willian/Oscar, Bertrand Traore (this trio is the toughest to call; I expect at least one of the three to be one of our "regulars" though I suspect that won't be Rémy whom we should be saving for the weekend and Costa's absence)
F: Radamel Falcao
According to your votes, the community's preferred lineup is as follows:
4-3-3/4-2-3-1 (depending on where Ramires plays):
Begovic | Baba, Terry, Djilobodji, Azpilicueta | Loftus-Cheek, Mikel, Ramires | Kenedy, Falcao, Traore
We might also have a few interesting names on the bench, as youngsters Jake Clarke-Salter, Charly Musonda, and Tammy Abraham have all been training with the first team ahead of tomorrow's match.