Chelsea begin the next batch of schedule-hell, with another set of seven games in three weeks beginning with Saturday’s match at Crystal Palace. This batch appears a bit easier than September’s, but that’s not something that we should really be counting on for salvation. With N’Golo Kante set to miss basically all of these games and Alvaro Morata and Danny Drinkwater set to miss at least one, if not more, salvation has to come from within. Conte will have to trust backups, fringe players, and the rest of the squad more than ever before. Bakayoko and Fabregas cannot play every game. Batshuayi has to play some of the games. If real estate is all about location, location, location, then sustained success across multiple competitions is all about rotation, rotation, rotation.
But rotation has to be done smartly. Sure, for the League Cup match against Everton in two weeks, we can probably do a complete line change. But for other games, it has to be done smartly. The solution may not be obvious. Or it may be. And of course all these choices will be evaluated in hindsight, and based on the results achieved. This won’t be easy.
And even though Chelsea play bottom-of-the-table Crystal Palace on Saturday, that will not be easy either. That said, we should expect Chelsea to play on the front foot, so a Spurs-esque solution of David Luiz playing as the anchor of a midfield three in a 3-5-2 is probably not the right approach. In fact, a standard 3-4-3 should do that job here. The next three weeks may require some fancy solutions, but this game should not need them. Trust the direct backups to the injured players. Trust the process.
Courtois | Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Moses | Hazard, Batshuayi, Pedro
We can worry about the starting lineups in the upcoming games later this week, swapping players out depending on fitness. Losing to Crystal Palace would be embarrassing and beyond damaging to any early title hopes.
The WAGNH community’s preference is along similar lines, with Rudiger coming in for Cahill (36%) the one and only difference (Christensen finished with 50%).
Courtois (98%) | Rudiger (62%), David Luiz (79%), Azpilicueta (96%) | Alonso (96%), Fabregas (84%), Bakayoko (98%), Moses (69%)| Hazard (98%), Batshuayi (91%), Pedro (70%)