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Predicted Chelsea lineup against West Ham United: 4-3-3 the solution

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Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Predicting starting lineups is tricky business at the best of times.  With a new season, a new coach, a new philosophy, a couple new signings, and plenty of unknowns, it's even trickier this time around.

Perhaps the biggest question facing the team is whether to opt for a three-man midfield and a lone striker or to try to make the two-man midfield work.  Conte tried to make the latter work at the start of preseason, but in the last two friendlies, he switched to more of a 4-3-3 look.  So I think he will continue with that trend, especially after letting Bertrand Traoré leave on loan, reducing the squad to just three center forwards (and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, should that weird experiment continue).

The other big question then becomes who will be the third midfielder.  N'Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matić are locked on as starters, but Oscar or Cesc Fàbregas could both slot in as the third.  Oscar's all-action style seems a better fit for Conte, but it's tough to ignore the quality that Fàbregas could provide — and a three-man midfield is pretty much the only way we could fit Cesc in at this point without compromising the team at the other end.  That said, I think Conte will go with the "safer" option, in a sense, and pick Oscar.

The rest of the team picks itself.

4-3-3:
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanović | Matić, Kanté, Oscar | Hazard, Costa, Willian

Most of this lineup could also fit into a 4-2-4, should Conte look to shake things up even more.  The WAGNH Community basically agrees, with the massive exception of picking young Ola Aina over Vice-captain Branislav Ivanović.  Fàbregas just edges out Oscar by a couple percentage points.

4-3-3:
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Aina | Matić, Kanté, Fàbregas | Hazard, Costa, Willian