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Predicted Chelsea lineup against Stoke City: 352 or 343, that is the question

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Chelsea FC v Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Chelsea hit the road for just the third time all season, heading up to the Potteries to take on Stoke City, who currently appear to lack rainy weather, cold, wind, and center backs, and have gone four games without winning. Still, it’s Stoke away, with ‘away’ being the operative word.

While it’s a small sample size, Chelsea have played in a de facto 3-5-2 formation in both away games so far this season. Against Spurs, it was a bit of an emergency measure given injuries and suspensions, but against Leicester City, it looked like a definite plan to change things up a bit from the usual 3-4-3. And as Arsenal showed over the weekend, teams know how to play against last year’s tactics. While that doesn’t necessarily guarantee them success (if Pedro converts his chance, we’re probably looking at a very different game), it does add to the feeling that tactical tweaks may be required for consistent continued success this season. That said, with Drinkwater injured, Conte probably won’t want to play all three of his remaining midfielders at the same time if he doesn’t need to.

There is also the upcoming week of games to consider, with Atletico Madrid awaiting on Wednesday and then Manchester City at the Bridge on Saturday. It’s probably not the best idea to play the same strongest eleven in three straight games. So would Stoke be the game to rest a couple key players? Perhaps Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who both played all 90 minutes on Wednesday? (Fabregas only put in 55 minutes, in contrast, while neither Willian nor Pedro played.)

The other question that Conte has to figure out is how to adjust for David Luiz’s absence. While we’re assuming that Christensen has that job, that means that one of Cahill or Rudiger would have to miss out. My guess is that Cahill retains his starting spot, if for nothing else than because he’s scored in both games against Stoke last season.

Courtois | Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Moses | Pedro, Morata, Willian

The WAGNH community’s preference is a a stronger look with Hazard, Bakayoko, and Rudiger. Fabregas finished with 40% of the vote while Cahill got 41%.

3-4-3 (77%):
Courtois (99%+) | Rudiger (75%), Christensen (85%), Azpilicueta (98%) | Alonso (98%), Kante (99%), Bakayoko (79%), Moses (77%) | Hazard (94%), Morata (98%), Willian (67%)