This time last week, hot on the heels on a fantastic 3-0 away win at Crystal Palace, Chelsea were looking ahead to a busy, though easily manageable week. Three home games in 7 days is a potentially daunting task, but first up were lower league Scunthorpe, then obvious-gameplan West Brom midweek, and finally deceptively greatly underachieving Everton on the weekend.
Three matches of increasing difficulty should've afforded plenty of chance for smart rotation. But that hasn't happened. Sure, a few changes were made, Mikel and Terry getting a rest against Scunthorpe for example, but the vast majority of key players already have upwards of 180 minutes of competitive football under their belts this week. It's not hard to imagine the starting front five of Fabregas, Pedro, Oscar, Willian, and Diego Costa, as well as both fullbacks getting a bit tired as Saturday's 3pm kick-off approaches.
While it's understandable that Hiddink is still gaining trust in his whole squad -- he does talk often of getting to know them, especially the younger group that includes Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy -- the lineups against Scunthorpe and West Brom were disappointingly unimaginative and perhaps dangerously similar to each other. And to what we probably will see on Saturday again. Contrast that with Everton, who gave their key attacking trio of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, and Gerard Deulofeu (and Stones and Baines, too!) the day off in the FA Cup third round (and still won). It's one thing to take the competition seriously, it's another to miss an opportunity to rotate and give minutes to backups and youngsters and potentially set up the squad for failure the rest of the week as well.
What's done is done, however. "The result is the result," which is my new favoritie Guusism. The lineups are the lineups and the tiredness and jadedness are the tiredness and the jadedness. The prediction is the prediction and is as follows:
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic | Mikel, Fabregas | Kenedy, Oscar, Willian | Costa
Surely, not even Hiddink could start Pedro again, after Wednesday night, right? The community agrees. Synergy!
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic | Mikel, Fabregas | Kenedy, Oscar (just barely beating out RLC), Willian | Costa