After two agonizing weeks of dull international football, Chelsea’s finally back and we have a flurry of games ahead of us.
To start off, Chelsea will be hosting newly promoted Cardiff City, who will apparently not park the bus, at least so claims their bigmouth manger, Neil Warnock. One thing that is certain however is that Cardiff are an extremely physical and aggressive side. Maurizio Sarri’s tactics and choice of lineup will have to be on point in order to beat the visitors.
Despite being in poor form, Cardiff should not be underestimated and a full strength Chelsea starting eleven is to be expected.
Can there be any other choice than Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal? The world’s most expensive goalkeeper will almost certainly be given his fifth straight start and will have another chance to admire his new home while Chelsea dominate possession.
In defense, there’s been an ongoing debate whether or not David Luiz should be dropped for Andreas Christensen in the past two weeks. While that may very well happen once the cup competitions start, I can’t see Sarri dropping the man who’s started every game thus far, a back four consisting of Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, David Luiz and Alonso seems like the most obvious choice.
Just like the goalkeeping position, Chelsea’s midfield looks to be set in stone as the deadly triangle of Jorginho, Kanté and Kovačić will continue to dominate anyone who dares to oppose them. It also doesn’t seem too far-fetched that Jorginho & Co. would set a new passing or possession record once again, so keep an eye on that.
The attack seems like the only area in which Chelsea could make some changes as it’s not clear whether Sarri favors Pedro or Willian as the first-choice right winger. With Morata’s continuing lack of form and confidence, there have been several calls for Giroud to be given the starting spot down the middle but, just like with Christensen, it’s unlikely this will change before Chelsea’s opening Europa League fixture.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Morata, Pedro
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred line-up mirrors the predicted one in all but one position, with Christensen just barely edging out David Luiz (47%) for the second centre back spot. Christensen had won this battle 60-38 two weeks ago, but David Luiz has closed the gap back to basically 50-50 this week. In other positional races, Morata edged out Giroud (41%) at center forward while Pedro once again easily beat out Willian (26%) and Hudson-Odoi (11%) at right wing. Kovačić enjoyed similar advantage in midfield ahead of Loftus-Cheek (18%) and Barkley (16%).
Arrizabalaga (98%) | Alonso (94%), Christensen (51%), Rüdiger (93%), Azpilicueta (95%) | Kovačić (69%), Jorginho (97%), Kanté (95%) | Hazard (95%), Morata (54%), Pedro (71%)
The preferred line-up also differs in one case from the predicted one but with a different protagonist: while I agree that Christensen should be given his chance to make an impression after the international break, it’s probably better to do so in the Europa League first. For me, it’s Giroud who should be given the nod ahead of Morata. The Spaniard has been trying his best in the first four games but, overall, it simply hasn’t been good enough. Giroud strikes me like a more natural fit in the current system, especially against a physical and robust side like Cardiff.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Giroud, Pedro
COME ON, YOU BLUES!