We had been wondering if Antonio Conte would be making any significant changes to his starting lineup for Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against Spurs, especially in light of Pochettino’s men having proven more than capable in handling Chelsea’s 3-4-3 in the previous two meetings this season. It turns out that Conte’s hand will be forced into at least one change, as the Chelsea coach confirmed this morning that Gary Cahill is unlikely to be fit to play tomorrow.
Replacing Cahill is not an easy problem. John Terry would be the most experienced option, but the Chelsea captain has hardly played all season. Kurt Zouma has been the first option off the bench recently, but he’s not yet back to where he was before the ACL injury last year. Nathan Aké meanwhile seems quite far down the pecking order.
And yet, it is perhaps Aké who will slot in, as he should. The clue is in Conte’s reference to having two options per position.
Conte says in every position he tries to have two options. If Terry was to play, the best position would be in the centre of the three. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 21, 2017
While I’m not exactly sure how to reconcile this with Conte’s strange decisions in replacing Marcos Alonso with Cesar Azpilicueta and then Victor Moses against Manchester United, I’m hoping it means that Aké does get the start for Cahill (as he did a couple times in the earlier rounds of the FA Cup) and allows the rest of the team to stay balanced and familiar.
Courtois | Aké, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Matić, Kanté, Moses | Hazard, Costa, Pedro
The community’s preference (before we knew of Cahill’s absence) is for Fàbregas instead of Matić, which is nothing new, though it should be noted that a 3-5-2 starting formation received a few more votes this time around than usual. This is also probably the lowest percentage for a healthy Costa. Time to step up and shape up, Diego!
Courtois (89%) | Cahill (66%), David Luiz (93%), Azpilicueta (94%) | Alonso (90%), Fàbregas (61%), Kanté (96%), Moses (88%) | Hazard (95%), Costa (51%), Pedro (70%)