After a positive result to conclude the year, Chelsea go into their home game against Southampton with the hope of starting 2019 right where 2018 left off. The Saints are however under new management, and Ralph Hasenhüttl has already been able to steady the ship by making the side more compact and organized. The Blues will have to be wary not to underestimate their opponent.
As always, Kepa Arrizabalaga starts in goal and, if everything goes according to plan, he should have a quiet evening.
Andreas Christensen returned to the side in the game against Crystal Palace, sitting the full 90 on the bench. With the first-choice back four of Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger and César Azpilicueta playing an extensive amount of minutes recently, I can see Maurizio Sarri rotating one of Christensen or Emerson into the starting eleven. But given that Saturday will see second division Nottingham Forest come to town in the FA Cup, it’s likely that Sarri will stick with the A-team one more time, and rotate to the B-team for the weekend instead (which will then be followed by Spurs in the League Cup for the A-team).
Similarly, I don’t expect much rotation in midfield as Mateo Kovačić returns to the starting lineup and joins N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho. Ross Barkley didn’t exactly shine in his first Premier League start in over a month on Sunday, and should presumably watch from the bench.
Olivier Giroud’s injury has come at the worst possible time, even if Álvaro Morata is back to full fitness. Sarri’s a lot more likely to deploy Eden Hazard as the center forward, assuming that Ruben Loftus-Cheek is fit to play. If he isn’t,
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Willian, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred lineup shows that Loftus-Cheek’s (23%) uncertain fitness condition was enough to bring Morata back into the fray for the first time in several weeks. Emerson is again preferred ahead of Alonso (46%) while Kovačić gets the nod ahead of Barkley (28%). It’s worth mentioning that Hudson-Odoi received 21%, which may be below even the chance Sarri himself would give the youngster to start this match. (Also, Andreas Christensen was accidentally left off the voting form, but he received only 3 total write-in votes, or about 0.3% of the total.)
Arrizabalaga (99%) | Emerson (56%), David Luiz (92%), Rüdiger (98%), Azpilicueta (95%) | Kovačić (72%), Jorginho (92%), Kanté (97%) | Hazard (99%), Morata (74%), Willian (85%)
I’m going with the same preferred lineup as I picked against Crystal Palace with the hope that Loftus-Cheek is fit enough to return to the starting eleven and that Emerson gets picked over Alonso who’s been playing poorly and could do with a rest anyway. I’d definitely continue with Hazard at centre-forward instead of Morata, as Southampton’s defense has problems against speedy attackers.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Willian, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!