We’re now less than 48 hours away from kick-off between Chelsea and Manchester United for a place in the FA Cup quarterfinals and try as hard we might to glean some hints as far as Conte’s starting lineup, we’ve been rather unsuccessful. He’s keeping his cards very close to his chest on this one.
“I have to decide the starting XI. For sure I try to make the best decision for the team, because we want to go to the next round, like Manchester United.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Of course, he’s said that before every round of every Cup game so far this season. Of course we want to win and want to advance regardless of who the opposition might be or who all play in the starting lineup.
In all three rounds of the League Cup that saw Chelsea participate, as well as the first two rounds of the FA Cup, Conte opted to rotate basically his whole team. There were backups and youngsters at just about every position and we even saw wild experiments like Pedro playing left wing-back.
But all that changed in the previous round of the FA Cup, away to Wolves, when Conte rotated only half the team. While the back five were all backups, the front five were just about all first-team players. With that in mind, I expect Conte to go one step further down that path, and essentially not rotate the team at all.
It’s a huge game and we have very little fixture congestion to deal with, if any at all. In fact, we have just one more match left this month after Monday, away to Stoke City the following weekend.
The one change I would expect however is Nemanja Matić coming in to contest the midfield that. Is it a risk to play the same exact lineup against Mourinho as we did in the 4-0 back in October? Maybe. But there’s something to be said for not overthinking the situation and trying to mess with success.
Courtois | Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Matić, Kanté, Moses | Hazard, Costa, Pedro
The community’s preferred lineup makes no changes to this lineup either — though the percentages are slightly smaller than they are for normal league games. The backups and youth have gotten us to this point, but now it’s time for the first-team to take over.
Courtois (75%) | Cahill (70%), David Luiz (80%), Azpilicueta (89%) | Alonso (81%), Matić (56%), Kanté (93%), Moses (86%) | Hazard (92%), Costa (92%), Pedro (69%)