Our first European home game of the season will see Chelsea go up against Hungarian title winners MOL Vidi FC in the arguably ‘easiest’ game of the group stages. Maurizio Sarri indicated in his press conference on Wednesday that he will be making up to seven changes to the starting lineup in an attempt to keep the squad nice and fresh for the trip down to Saint Mary’s on Sunday.
Ideally, he’ll make even more changes than that, and give youngsters like Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu some significant minutes. A mixture of youth and experience should be more than enough to dispose of the visitors.
Despite starting against PAOK two weeks ago, it seems likely that Kepa Arrizabalaga will sit this one out and Willy Caballero will get the chance to build on his good performance in League Cup against Liverpool last Wednesday.
The back four will presumably see heavy rotation as Gary Cahill and Andreas Christensen are bound to start at centre-back. At fullback, I expect it to be a mix of one of the usual starters and a back-up, so my bet’s on Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta (though it could just as well be Emerson and Azpilicueta).
More changes are bound to happen in midfield. A similar midfield to the one that was fielded in last week’s cup tie seems possible. The trio of Cesc Fàbregas, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and N’Golo Kanté would provide Maurizio Sarri with the perfect mixture of resting key players and giving those on the fringes vital game time.
In his press conference, Sarri mentioned that no more than one of Hazard and Hudson-Odoi would start against Vidi, which leaves open the possibility that neither of them will do. Willian and Moses seem more likely choices, depending on Pedro’s fitness — if he’s expected to return this weekend, Willian will surely start today. Down the middle, my money’s on Alvaro Morata getting the nod, to continue the rotation and keep Giroud rested for the weekend.
Overall, that’s eight changes to the first-choice starting eleven, which is the same number as Sarri made for the Carabao Cup. If he could afford to do so against Liverpool’s B-team, surely he can do so against Vidi’s A-team.
Caballero | Alonso, Cahill, Christensen, Zappacosta | Loftus-Cheek, Fàbregas, Kanté | Willian, Morata, Moses
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred lineup differs to the predicted one in three places: Emerson is clearly preferred ahead of Alonso (5%), Ampadu edges out Ruben Loftus-Cheek (61%) and Hudson-Odoi is clearly favoured over Willian (30%). The rest of the usual starters all got 15% or less of the vote, with most hovering well down in the single digits: Rüdiger, David Luiz, Hazard, Alonso all at 5%; Jorginho (7%), Azpilicueta (8%), Kovačić (12%), Kanté (15%). Clearly, rotation is the people’s choice.
Caballero (64%) | Emerson (94%), Cahill (67%), Christensen (89%), Zappacosta (89%) | Barkley (88%), Fàbregas (91%), Ampadu (64%) | Hudson-Odoi (91%), Morata (90%), Moses (73%)
As unlikely as it may be, I would like to see Sarri rotate almost the entire team, with only Willian retaining his spot from the weekend. But most importantly, Ampadu and Hudson-Odoi must get some minutes here. The circumstances are perfect. I’d also give both Alonso and Azpilicueta a rest.
Caballero | Emerson, Ampadu, Christensen, Zappacosta | Loftus-Cheek, Fàbregas, Barkley | Hudson-Odoi, Morata, Willian
COME ON, YOU BLUES!