We’re back, y’all!
It’s a new season, a new manager, a new system and, most importantly, a new edition of the predicted line-up. A slight new twist on this feature will be the inclusion of a “preferred” lineup in addition to the “predicted” lineup as well as the one based on the lineup voting.
In his first competitive game in charge of Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri will certainly be looking to utilize his usual 4-3-3 formation. The question then is personnel rather than tactics, and mostly who might be fit enough and familiar enough with the new system at this point.
In his press conference today, Maurizio Sarri confirmed that the Blues’ record-breaking goalkeeper signing, Kepa Arrizabalaga will definitely find himself in the matchday squad. But while the goalkeeper may not need as much time to internalize Sarrismo, one wouldn’t expect that to be the case for most outfield players.
In defense, it will probably be the same back four that started against Manchester City last Sunday as “Captain for the day” César Azpilicueta, Antonio Rüdiger, David Luiz, and Marcos Alonso will be relied upon to keep Huddersfield’s strikers quiet. Let’s hope they don’t target our left flank, then.
In midfield, which is suddenly a most gloriously exciting part of the squad, new arrival Mateo Kovačić is likely to start on the bench due to lack of match fitness while Cesc Fàbregas was not quite past his knee knock last weekend in the Community Shield, and Sarri just might prefer the more dynamic Ross Barkley anyway. Joining Barkley and the nailed-on starter Jorginho should be N’Golo Kanté. Regardless of system, Kanté should be one of the first names on the team sheet in fact.
In attack, Pedro and Morata are nailed on starters at this point, having been exposed to Sarri-ball since day one, though with varying degrees of success. Pedro has 2 of Chelsea’s 3 preseason goals, while Álvaro ... well, don’t let us down, Álvaro! The big question is who will start on the left flank, with Hudson-Odoi playing a lot in preseason without Willian or Hazard available. The latter two are now back, but with less than a week of training and just 25 minutes of match action under his belt, it’s probably safer to take it slow with Hazard. So, Willian it is.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Barkley, Jorginho, Kanté | Willian, Morata, Pedro
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred line-up was a close call but the 4-3-3 formation prevailed. I know, I know, I was surprised, too. This starting XI is very similar to the predicted one, with the exception of David Luiz (47%) missing out to Christensen and Eden Hazard being preferred to Pedro (33%). The vote for the third spot in midfield is largely undecided as well at the moment, but Barkley wins out with almost twice as many votes as Kovačić, Fàbregas, or Drinkwater.
Arrizabalaga (89%) | Alonso (66%), Christensen (55%), Rüdiger (86%), Azpilicueta (96%) | Barkley (45%), Jorginho (99%), Kanté (89%) | Hazard (72%), Morata (64%), Willian (63%)
There are three big differences in my preferred lineup compared to the one above. The left side of the defence was especially problematic against Manchester City in the Community Shield, so I’ve rewarded Ethan Ampadu with a shock start and picked Emerson instead of Alonso. While the midfield is the same, I’ve also fancied Hudson-Odoi ahead of Willian as the youngster’s brilliant shifts surely deserve a start against lesser opposition.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, Ampadu, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Barkley, Jorginho, Kante | Hudson-Odoi, Morata, Pedro