It’s the FA Cup final. It’s the last chance at silverware both both Jose Mourinho, who excels in cup competitions, and Antonio Conte, who does not. It’s also, apparently, an opportunity for one more head-scratching starting XI to take the pitch for Chelsea.
Since Tiémoué Bakayoko worked his way back into the lineup, Conte has used his preferred three-man midfield against tough opposition. Second-place Manchester United qualify as tough opposition, so the 3-5-2 feels predictable.
What doesn’t feel predictable is who will populate that lineup. Ross Barkley displaced Cesc Fabregas against Newcastle. Didn’t see that coming! Andreas Christensen took over in the middle of the backline, squeezing able deputy Gary Cahill back to his old spot on the left side, and pushing Antonio Rudiger to the bench.
Maybe Conte’s just trying to confuse Mourinho. Maybe Conte himself doesn’t know his best XI at this point? Maybe none of it matters anymore. Hey, who knows at this point?
With all the turmoil of late — and with Willian and Hazard both giving interviews that implicitly criticize Conte, who, in the past, has responded with benchings for David Luiz and Rudiger for conduct unbecoming of team unity — trying to guess what Conte might do isn’t as easy as it used to be in the good old days of zero rotation and a Premier League title.
What would you do?