Chelsea are home today and playing an opposition who are likely to sit deep, absorb pressure, and counter quickly. It’s a gameplan we’ve seen many times from opponents over the past 12-18 months, and it’s one we should be well versed in breaking down. The only problem is that it’s unclear what the team’s own best gameplan is the moment.
And the plan itself may not even matter as much as execution and finishing chances might. We’ve struggled to score at times with starters, with backups, in the 3-5-2, in the 3-4-3, and any place in between. We only have to look back across the last two matches in all competitions for a sample of all four of those.
And that leaves us none the wiser for a lineup prediction, so perhaps we’ll work backwards from the next game, which is the FA Cup third round replay against Norwich. That game is likely to see mass rotation once again, with Batshuayi, Barkley, and, say, Willian (assuming Musonda is about to be loaned out and we don’t want to Cup-tie him) likely to start as the three furthest forward players (either all three forwards or one of the non-Michys withdrawn). Which leaves us with Morata, Hazard, and Pedro for today.
Kanté is nailed on midfield and Bakayoko didn’t start against Arsenal, so I’d give that duo a go. Bakayoko has more than his fair share of critics, but I have a sneaking suspicion he’s better in a two- rather than a three-man midfield. The rest basically pick themselves.
Courtois | Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Bakayoko, Kanté, Moses | Hazard, Morata, Pedro
Don’t let me down, Pedrito!
Meanwhile, the WAGNH community’s preference is also firmly in the 3-4-3 camp, but with Fàbregas (45%) edging out Bakayoko (44%) by the smallest of margins, Zappacosta (53%) putting slightly more distance between himself and Moses (45%), and Willian (52%) easily beating out Pedro (38%).
Courtois (95%) | Cahill (62%), Christensen (75%), Azpilicueta (95%) | Alonso (89%), Fàbregas (45%), Kanté (90%), Zappacosta (53%) | Hazard (82%), Morata (82%), Willian (52%)