Chelsea have little else to play for other than professional pride and general good vibes as Greek champions PAOK and their masses of un-ticketed supporters roll into town on Matchday 5 of the Europa League group stages.
By winning all four of the previous games, Chelsea have already qualified for the knockout round. We could technically still not finish first (need a point from the final two group games to guarantee top spot), but after Saturday’s debacle, getting right back on the winning track is imperative.
Date / Time: Thursday, November 29, 2018, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Kristo Tohver — this is the first Europa League proper assignment for the 37-year-old Estonian referee, and just the seventh of his career.
Forecast: Rainy, breezy, fairly mild
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); Univision Deportes (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); elsewhere
Chelsea team news: The 18-match unbeaten run is over. The flaws of Sarri-ball and Chelsea’s lack of proper execution of it have been rudely exposed and questions and concerns are being raised about the long-term sustainability of Sarri’s idealism. The Chelsea head coach has three games (PAOK, Fulham, Wolves) to figure out things before Manchester City come to town in 10 days.
Sarri has been rotating heavily for all midweek engagements and this one will be no different, if even more extreme. Eden Hazard and Victor Moses have already been ruled out with ankle and back injuries, respectively, while Callum Hudson-Odoi has been confirmed as at least part of the matchday squad. Chelsea have also registered 19-year-old goalkeeper Jamie Cumming from List B for this match.
Sarri’s honeymoon period is probably over. The real work begins now.
PAOK team news: Since we saw them in mid-September, PAOK have only lost twice, both times to Vidi FC in the Europa League, putting the Hungarian champions into second place of Group L. PAOK did beat BATE away, while domestically they’ve opened a five-point lead at the top of the table.
Head coach Răzvan Lucescu is sweating the fitness of midfielders Omar El Kaddouri and Maurício and defender Fernando Varela, all three of whom started the first meeting.
Previously: And speaking of that first meeting, here’s Chelsea winning 1-0 courtesy of an early Willian strike (he’s only scored one goal since) and many missed chances before a late surge from home side.