In his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s League Cup quarterfinal match against AFC Bournemouth, Antonio Conte confirmed that not all that surprising notion that Chelsea will be rotating heavily for this game, just as we have done so in previous rounds. While Bournemouth should not be taken easily, this game offers the only respite from the deluge of all-important Premier League clashes (top-four is still on the line even if the title’s gone) and thus offers a chance to use the backups and perhaps even the youth.
“For sure, we will continue in this way. It’s right to continue to give this opportunity to my players to show me that they deserve to play. Every competition is serious and our task is to try and win the game, to reach the semi-finals. It’s right in this competition to give the opportunity to the players that aren’t playing with regularity. This is very important.”
As Conte pointed out, players like N’Golo Kante, who’s started every game since his return from injury, are very much in need of a rest in order to try to prevent further injuries. That applies to Alvaro Morata as well, who’s been nursing a back injury and will thus be given futher time to properly recuperate.
One player who’s also in contention is Ethan Ampadu, who’s recently made his Premier League debut (as a center back!) before dropping down a couple levels to help the U18s advance in the FA Youth Cup. Conte also mentioned Dujon Sterling, who’s made one appearance earlier this season also in the League Cup, as well as Callum Hudson-Odoi, who’s been the standout player in the Academy this season.
“These players could be involved, why not. These players are the future for Chelsea. Sterling is a really good player, Hudson-Odoi won the U20 World Cup. Ampadu played the last round against Everton, maybe he could start tomorrow. Every day Ampadu is working with us and working hard. I must consider the young players, if they deserve to have this chance.”
One player who will not be involved is Charly Musonda Jr, unfortunately, as he’s picked up yet another injury, a groin this time. Musonda’s 2017 has been defined by injuries and a lack of playing time stemming largely from that, so hopefully the new year will bring him better luck in that regard.
“Musonda has a little muscular problem in his groin. That isn’t from today, it's from before the game against Southampton. He’s out and David Luiz has an old injury also, but other than that, there are no other injury worries.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Putting all that together, here’s one way we could line up tomorrow. While recently we’ve been playing a 3-4-3 with a very mobile front line, without Kante and with Batshuayi up top, a 3-5-2 might be back in effect. David Luiz’s absence hurts here since Christensen probably should be given a rest after seven consecutive starts.
Caballero | Cahill, Ampadu, Rudiger | Kenedy, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Zappacosta | Willian, Batshuayi
The WAGNH community’s preference is very much to stay in a 3-4-3, which is certainly a valid option as well. The voting was done before Musonda’s injury was revealed; next up in line would be Willian at 49%.
Caballero (84%) | Cahill (61%), Christensen (67%), Rudiger (96%) | Kenedy (73%), Drinkwater (91%), Fabregas (50%), Zappacosta (83%) | Pedro (55%), Batshuayi (84%), Musonda (66%)