Maurizio Sarri’s stern post-match comments after the Arsenal defeat have dominated the air waves, but will they lead to any actual change? As far as the starting lineup itself is concerned, probably not...
Kepa Arrizabalaga was probably put in the only good performance in the weekend’s 2-0 debacle at the Emirates, making a few magnificent reflex saves to keep the scoreline somewhat close, and he should be starting in goal once again in this one.
Chelsea may have the second best defensive record in the Premier League, but the usual defensive quartet was far shakier on Saturday than normal. But while Sarri did rest David Luiz for the first leg (in favor of Andreas Christensen’s nervous stomach), he’ll probably keep faith with the usual group for the second leg (especially with a rotation opportunity coming up over the weekend in the FA Cup).
Mateo Kovačić was just as ineffective against Arsenal as all the rest, but Sarri does have a trusted rotation option in Ross Barkley, who might be trusted to take a turn. Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté should be playing in the other two positions, as usual.
With Gonzalo Higuaín missing the deadline to register in time for this game by a few hours, it’s going to be either Eden Hazard or Olivier Giroud leading the line. Maybe one last hurrah for the false nine experiment then, as worrying as that may be...
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Barkley, Jorginho, Kanté | Willian, Hazard, Pedro
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community were firm in their choice of a strong starting eleven, injecting a bit of HGH — Hazard, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi — up top (perhaps as a precursor to the Triple H in the near future!), while Pedro (37%) and Willian (22%) were left weakly behind. It was much closer in midfield where Kovačić beat out Barkley (58%) by the narrowest of margins, while Jorginho’s wasn’t too far ahead either. By comparison, Emerson’s win over Alonso 32% was by a massive margin.
Fun fact: Higuain would not have been preferred to start even if he had signed in time, as only 55% of respondents voted YES on plugging him in straight away.
Arrizabalaga (96%) | Emerson (65%), David Luiz (69%), Rüdiger (90%), Azpilicueta (88%) | Kovačić (59%), Jorginho (61%), Kanté (97%) | Hazard (96%), Giroud (70%), Hudson-Odoi (75%)
After one of the worst performances I’ve had the displeasure of watching, my calls for Emerson to get the nod ahead of Marcos Alonso have never been louder. Similarly, Hudson-Odoi should get the opportunity to start this leg as well, while Barkley is the least out of form between all the midfielders not named N’Golo Kanté, so he gets my vote.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Barkley, Jorginho, Kanté | Hudson-Odoi, Hazard, Pedro
COME ON, YOU BLUES!