After our "Cup final" against Spurs on Monday, interim manager Guus Hiddink is hoping that the squad will maintain their intensity, quality, and levels of focus as we travel far north to Sunderland. The Black Cats are in an intense relegation battle with local rivals Newcastle, and there's little doubt that Big Sam Allardyce will have them fired up for this one.
It is because of this importance placed on the game by the home side that Hiddink is likely to opt for basically the same side as against Spurs. While we all want him to play the youth, he's thinking that playing the senior first-team players will maintain competitive fairness more than playing the kids. He may be right of course, but there's also a chance that the first-teamers will start to truly phone in it, now that there's absolutely nothing left for us to play for.
"It's important for ourselves, for our pride and for our enjoyment of football."
"Second, we want to have the same approach for all the teams who are still fighting to avoid relegation. They deserve the same approach in our seriousness, with no guarantee that we can win, but we will go for the win of course. Given the situation it wouldn't be fair of us to have a serious approach for the Spurs game and not have a serious approach for the other games."
"I am not going to change a lot in the team. Before, I made some changes with Academy players, but it would not be fair to do it again to the other teams we are approaching in the last games. You have the obligation as a player to act well. They did that in the previous games against Bournemouth and Tottenham and we are going in to the last three games with the same attitude."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Chelsea FC
The one change that should get made is Thibaut Courtois returning from suspension and taking his place between the sticks once again. There's been plenty of talk about the 23-year-old's Chelsea future; further starts for Begovic would surely just pour more fuel on that fire. So if we are planning on keeping Courtois, it'd be wise to start him.
If we are truly looking to field a full-strength lineup, we should also consider restoring Eden Hazard and Oscar to the starting lineup. Both made for effective substitutes against Spurs (especially Hazard) and should be rewarded for their efforts this weekend.
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic | Mikel, Fabregas | Hazard, Oscar, Willian | Costa
Unsurprisingly, the WAGNH community would prefer a bit more youth, though Matic did just barely edge out Kenedy for the final spot in the starting lineup.
Courtois | Baba, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta | Matic, Fabregas | Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Willian | Costa