Chelsea taken on Atlético Madrid on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge, and there’s potentially a great many things on the line — for Chelsea, a good chance to finish top of the group; for Atlético, a long-shot of qualifying for the knockout rounds and avoid the Europa League.
The latter would first and foremost require Qarabag to win or draw in Rome, and would simultaneously require Atlético to beat Chelsea at the Bridge. Neither of those are very likely outcomes, especially the first one, which is surely frustrating for Simeone’s men but that’s the bed they’ve made for themselves with lackluster performances up to this point. For what it’s worth, Simeone claimed in his pre-match comments that they will not be keeping an eye on the Qarabag score and will come out fighting to their best abilities.
The only way Chelsea don’t finish top of the group is if Roma beat Qarabag and we lose to Atlético. (EDIT: Roma own the tie-breaker against Chelsea, so a Chelsea draw against Atlético would also put Roma in first.) But Chelsea also won’t be keeping an eye on the other game going on, and Conte assures that we will be looking to win the game as well. Conte expects an “open game”, which could perhaps indicate a return to the 3-4-3 so we can take advantage of gaps left by the visitors pushing up.
It’s tough to guess what Conte might be thinking, so instead of a prediction, let’s do a preference. If I were in charge, I’d rotate for this midweek game just like we’ve rotated for the last two midweek games (Swansea at home; Qarabag away), giving starts to Pedro and Willian and Bakayoko and Batshuayi if he’s healthy, Hazard if he’s not (Conte blamed three starts in a week for the last time Morata got hurt, so maybe he’ll try to avoid that).
Potential opponents (as things stand after 5 games) as group winners: Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Porto, FC Basel
Potential opponents (as things stand after 5 games) as group runners-up: PSG, Barcelona, Besiktas
Chelsea have three straight Premier League games of mid-level strength after this, none of which offer an easy or obvious chance to rotate, before facing Bournemouth in the League Cup quarterfinal, which does offer that chance. It’s a bigger risk to overwork he first-choice eleven than to take on Atlético with a rotated lineup.
Courtois | Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kanté, Bakayoko, Zappacosta | Pedro, Hazard, Willian
The WAGNH community’s preference is firmly a first-choice lineup, with Drinkwater losing out to Bakayoko by a single percentage point.
Courtois (90%) | Cahill (68%), Christensen (92%), Azpilicueta (93%) | Alonso (82%), Bakayoko (55%), Kanté (85%), Fàbregas (73%), Moses (72%) | Hazard (81%), Morata (85%)