Antonio Conte has adhered to a strict rotation policy in both domestic cups thus far, with backups and youth and fringe players getting Chelsea all the way to the semifinals of the League Cup and into a replay for the third round of the FA Cup. While we could certainly do without the latter, reaching the semifinal is a good reward for this high-rish/high-reward strategy (we only have to look at Arsenal’s FA Cup match for the high risk part, or in fact our own disappointing travails at Norwich City).
That is likely to change however, as a full (or as full as possible) strength Arsenal roll into town for the first leg of the League Cup semifinal. It will be the first of three home games in the span of eight days, with a league match against Leicester City sandwiched between it and the Norwich replay. The latter is thus an obvious rotation opportunity once again, while the first-team will just have to buckle down and handle their business twice in four days.
There could be minor rotations of course, but unlike in the FA Cup semifinal last year against Spurs, we should not expect Eden Hazard on the bench — Conte said he’s recovered from whatever minor knock he picked up last week against the Gunners — nor should we expect Michy Batshuayi to start.
In fact, I think it will be very close to the lineup we saw last week in the league match against Arsenal — maybe dropping Bakayoko for Drinkwater? — which was more than capable of creating great chances. We do need to sharpen up in midfield and in terms of finishing, but the overall plan was sound and Conte’s likely to stick with it.
Courtois | Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Drinkwater, Kante, Fabregas, Moses | Hazard, Morata
If you’re entertaining ideas of Ross Barkley, Conte insisted that it’s far too soon for the new signing just yet, but that hopefully he will be ready soon.
“Tomorrow night is too soon for Ross [Barkley] but we must be pleased because his physical condition is good and he has started train with us and understand our football. We must be pleased. He needs a bit of time to work on the physical and tactical aspect, but his condition is very good. He is a good guy and he has shown great desire to work and to help us.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
The WAGNH community didn’t indulge such ideas — Barkley got 11% of the vote — and other than Rudiger for Cahill (38%), we’re all in agreement over the 3-5-2.
Courtois (89%) | Rudiger (62%), Christensen (92%), Azpilicueta (95%) | Alonso (94%), Drinkwater (60%), Kante (97%), Fabregas (78%) | Hazard (93%), Morata (91%)