Halfway through the Europa League group stage, Chelsea sit in a commanding position at the top of the four-team table, with a perfect record, a six-point lead, just one goal conceded, and basically already in the knockout stages as the other three teams have all taken points off of each other as well.
If Chelsea win on Thursday, we’re in the first knockout round for sure. If we draw, it’s almost guaranteed as well — if PAOK and Vidi draw as well this week, and then win their other two games, they would finish level on points with Chelsea at 10 and it would come down to tiebreakers.
If we are to stick to the standard rotation, this match should see mostly second-string players. Chelsea have one more match, Sunday against Everton, before the last international break of 2018 hits, so if we do have to push some players into more frequent action, now is the time to do so.
Eden Hazard returned to the bench on the weekend but the team may still be taking it easy with his back. Olivier Giroud should be back, though the “leg fatigue” remains a concern as it still seems like a weird injury to pick up out of nowhere. The rest of the squad should be good to go, except of course Danny Drinkwater, Lucas Piazon, and Rob Green, who are ineligible.