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Predicted Chelsea lineup against Qarabag: Big opportunity for Musonda and Batshuayi

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Chelsea Training & Press Conference Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Chelsea’s squad depth and the Chelsea head coach’s trust in said squad depth will be put to the test for the first time this season on Tuesday night, as Qarabag roll into town along with the usual pomp and circumstance of a Champions League night. And so as “The Chaaaaaaaampioooonss” blares out from the speakers at Stamford Bridge for the first time in well over a year, the starting lineup may not quite have all the first-choice names in it for the Blues.

Antonio Conte already confirmed that Eden Hazard and Álvaro Morata will only be on the bench and that Danny Drinkwater will miss out due to a new muscular injury he picked up in training. Combine that with the all-important Arsenal game coming up on Sunday, the return to availability for captain Gary Cahill, and the hint from Charly Musonda Jr on Instagram, we could indeed see wholesale rotation throughout the squad.

That’s not something that Conte seems to like too much — last season, he preferred to rotate no more than a handful of players at a time on the few occasions such opportunities presented themselves — but the whole point behind this summer’s drive to improve the squad’s depth was to give him more than 12-13 players he can “trust”. Presumably, he’s ready to do so after all that drama over the past few months.

3-4-3:
Courtois | Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kanté, Fàbregas, Zappacosta | Musonda Jr, Batshuayi, Willian

The prediction above keeps just Courtois, Azpi, Alonso, and Kanté from Saturday, with Fàbregas also retaining a starting position but in a deeper midfield role. My assumption is that Bakayoko-Kanté will start against Arsenal on Sunday, with Cesc heading back to the bench in favor of a front trio of Hazard-Morata-Pedro.

The WAGNH community’s preferred lineup rotates slightly less, but I did forget to include Gary Cahill as an option, which could’ve affected things. Otherwise, we seem to be in agreement, so unless Conte pulls a major surprise, this is the lineup we should be expecting.

3-4-3 (84%)
Courtois (53%) | Rüdiger/Cahill? (73%), Christensen (84%), Azpilicueta (76%) | Alonso (63%), Kanté (58%), Fàbregas (61%), Zappacosta (88%) | Musonda Jr (69%), Batshuayi (65%), Willian (66%)