Chelsea may have lost the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Tottenham during the week, but showed improvements in several departments and were arguably the better team. Maurizio Sarri will want to see that performance continue against a struggling Newcastle team, who have just four wins all season.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has hardly set a foot wrong all season. His pinpoint short and midrange passing, even when under pressure, and great reflexes make him a tremendous asset, and and he’ll start this game as he has every other Premier League game this season.
Having been on the bench against Spurs, David Luiz is certain to return to the starting eleven while César Azpilicueta and Antonio Rüdiger should take up their regular spots. I can actually see Maurizio Sarri rotating Emerson in for Marcos Alonso, but without a midweek match for once on the schedule and a full week’s rest coming up, it’s just as likely that Sarri simply sticks with the first-choice regulars.
Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté will continue to be two of the very first names on the team sheet. Ross Barkley hasn’t been at his best recently, so the once again healthy Mateo Kovačić should therefore return to the starting lineup, especially with Ruben Loftus-Cheek out injured.
Assuming that Eden Hazard plays center forward once again, Callum Hudson-Odoi should get his third start in a row, in the third different competition — if that doesn’t show faith in him, there isn’t much else Sarri could do. One of Willian or Pedro should complete the lineup, with Willian more likely as Pedro was still showing some ill effects from his hamstring injury in Tuesday’s substitute appearance. (And Hudson-Odoi seems more effective on the right as he tends to stay wide and stretch the field instead of congesting the middle like everyone else.)
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Willian, Hazard, Hudson-Odoi
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
While Maurizio Sarri is far from finished using Hazard as a false nine just yet, the WAGNH community’s preference shows that we certainly are, as Giroud beats Willian (20%) and Pedro (35%) to a starting spot. The only other close battle is at left back, where Emerson nips in ahead of Alonso (43%). Christensen (26%) and Barkley (21%) return to the bench after starting midweek, but Hudson-Odoi gets a solid vote of confidence with only undroppables like Kepa, Rüdiger, Azpi, Jorginho, Kanté, and Hazard ahead of him in the overall voting.
Arrizabalaga (99%) | Emerson (56%), David Luiz (77%), Rüdiger (94%), Azpilicueta (95%) | Kovačić (81%), Jorginho (92%), Kanté (98%) | Hazard (97%), Giroud (59%), Hudson-Odoi (83%)
As has been the case in recent weeks, I’m once again dropping Alonso and starting Emerson as he’s simply the best option at left-back at the moment. Pedro gets my vote over Willian; otherwise it’s the same lineup as the predicted one. Either way, I cannot emphasize enough how imperative it is for Hudson-Odoi to get the start again, both to help us win today and convince him to stay with the club for the foreseeable future.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hudson-Odoi, Hazard, Pedro
COME ON, YOU BLUES!