Two players who are absolutely essential to Conte’s 3-5-2 setup that he’s preferred in big games this season are not available for this game, as Álvaro Morata deals with a recurrence of his back injury and Cesc Fàbregas continues to nurse a hamstring ailment.
With Conte essentially confirming that Michy Batshuayi will not start either, after starting both of Chelsea’s last two games, we might be looking at a new-ish solution to try to get Chelsea into the League Cup final against Manchester City.
“I don’t know if this is the right time [for him to start again]. I think that every player had their chance to play and to show me their value. Now I think I have to make the best decision for the team.
”Every game is different. The quality of your opponent is different. I have to make the best decision to try and exploit my players in the best way. Our job is not simple, not easy. We have to try to make the best decision every time for the team. And to try to improve our players. Sometimes we are able, sometimes we are not able. But you have to do your best to reach your target.”
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
No Morata and no Batshuayi ... so 3-4-3 with an all-smalls forward line? That seems to be the obvious choice. With Hazard also urging Chelsea to attack and offering himself up as the proverbial center forward, surely that’s going to be our weapon of choice. (The one time we did see a 3-5-2 with a Hazard-Willian duo up top, it resulted in a rather sad effort against Manchester City.)
Courtois | Rüdiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kanté, Bakayoko, Moses | Pedro, Hazard, Willian
That’s assuming Courtois recovers from his ankle injury. Rüdiger gets the nod for his personal clean sheet-streak and Bakayoko gets the spot next to Kanté because he’s looked good in a midfield-two (as opposed to a three). I could certainly see Drinkwater starting as well, especially if we play in a Leicester-esque counter-attacking style (i.e. “suffer without the ball”).
The WAGNH community’s preference was for Morata to start, but the bulk of the voting was conducted before we knew of his back injury. Ross Barkley was the next highest vote-getter at 38%, with Batshuayi following close behind at 32% and an out of form Pedro lagging at 18%. That said, I would be surprised (somewhat pleasantly) if Barkley started.
Courtois (52%) | Rüdiger (91%), Christensen (58%), Azpilicueta (98%) | Alonso (94%), Kanté (98%), Bakayoko (58%), Moses (76%) | Willian (80%), Hazard (98%),
Morata (58%), Barkley (38%)