Wednesday’s League Cup tie against Liverpool may have ended in a win, but Chelsea will be facing an even bigger task when the two teams face each other once again at Stamford Bridge today. Going head-to-head in this crucial six-pointer at the top of the Premier League table, Chelsea will be facing a Liverpool team at full strength, with a perfect record through six rounds. As it so often seems to happen, it’s up to Chelsea to spoil the party.
Sarri made eight changes for the midweek dress rehearsal, with only Willian, Mateo Kovačić, and César Azpilicueta keeping their spots from the weekend before. Chances are, they will have to play a third game in the span of seven days, thanks in part to fitness uncertainties surrounded Pedro and Antonio Rüdiger.
Despite putting in an excellent performance on Wednesday, Willy Caballero will most certainly make way for Chelsea number one, Kepa Arrizabalaga, the club’s record signing and the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. Arrizabalaga has not had much to do so far this season, but he was Chelsea’s highest rated player in last weekend’s 0-0 draw against West Ham United.
Sarri seemed more optimistic about Antonio Rüdiger being ready than Pedro, so I expect Rüdiger to return to the heart of the Chelsea defense, alongside usual defensive partner David Luiz. The fullbacks are a given with both Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso currently undisputed starters, though it will be interesting to see how the former fairs after playing the full 90 only twice this week already.
In midfield, Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté should return, with Mateo Kovačić taking up his usual spot. The Real Madrid loanee was substituted 25 minutes before the final whistle on Wednesday and should be fit enough to start once again. This trio certainly appear to be Sarri’s preferred first-choice for the midfield at the moment.
The first name on the team sheet must be the “Prince of Stamford Bridge”, a.k.a. Eden Hazard, who will hopefully continue where he left off on Wednesday. With Pedro probably not fit enough, Willian should be starting on the right wing once again, possibly with a point to prove after a rather disappointing showing on Wednesday. Lastly, Olivier Giroud looks like Sarri’s preferred striker and Álvaro Morata hasn’t done much to make him reconsider this choice.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, Rüdiger, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Giroud, Willian
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred lineup involves no surprises; it’s the same XI as the predicted one. The injury situation did have an influence on the final vote however, with Rüdiger just barley beating out Gary Cahill (41%). Willian had a slightly easier time with Pedro (22%). The only other players to get over 10% were Álvaro Morata (18%), Ross Barkley (15%), and Callum Hudson-Odoi (11%).
Arrizabalaga (96%) | Alonso (96%), Rüdiger (45%), David Luiz (92%), Azpilicueta (96%) | Kovačić (82%), Jorginho (97%), Kanté (97%) | Hazard (99%), Giroud (80%), Willian (63%)
I’m going with the overly optimistic hope of Pedro being fit enough to start, replacing Willian. Otherwise, the strongest lineup at Chelsea these days is pretty obvious and should be the one Sarri chooses as well.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, Rüdiger, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Giroud, Pedro
COME ON, YOU BLUES!