Chelsea make the short trip up to Wembley for the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspurs and will be hoping for a far better performance than the one back in November’s 1-3 defeat. Spurs do seem to have somewhat of an injury crisis and won’t be able to resort to several of their usual starters. But Chelsea don’t have much to laugh at in this department either, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Willian ruled out, and Olivier Giroud, Pedro, and Mateo Kovačić all doubtful.
It goes without saying that Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal after getting a rare day off for Chelsea’s FA Cup win against Nottingham Forest. He will be needed to be in top form for such an important game.
Despite being a midweek cup game, Maurizio Sarri will almost certainly draw on his first-choice back four of Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger, and César Azpilicueta. While Emerson has been doing well when called upon, I can’t see Alonso being dropped for such a big occasion and there’s little doubt about the other three starters.
If Mateo Kovačić is healthy enough to play, then it’s highly likely he will get the nod ahead of Ross Barkley, who has not done himself any favours with his recent dip in form. Jorginho and N’golo Kanté should complete the set as usual.
Chelsea’s attacking department has been hit the worst during the current injury crisis, but that should mean a big opportunity for Callum Hudson-Odoi to shine on the big stage after Sarri has called him “ready” for prime time in his pre-match press conferece. Eden Hazard and the only other forward who’s healthy, Álvaro Morata, should complete the attacking trio.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hudson-Odoi, Morata, Hazard
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preference differs from the prediction only in Ross Barkley retaining his place ahead of Kovačić (41%). Emerson (47%) came close to unseating Alonso, but others — Christensen (28%); Ampadu (16%) — did not fare as well.
Arrizabalaga (93%) | Alonso (53%), David Luiz (75%), Rüdiger (92%), Azpilicueta (90%) | Barkley (59%), Jorginho (93%), Kanté (97%) | Hudson-Odoi (97%), Morata (93%), Hazard (96%)
I went with two changes to the predicted lineup above, once again including Emerson ahead of Marcos Alonso as I believe his skill set would be the superior choice against this fast and dangerous Spurs team. The second change is more wishful thinking than anything else, as I’d love to see Pedro return to fitness and form an attacking band with Hudson-Odoi and Hazard.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hudson-Odoi, Hazard, Pedro
COME ON, YOU BLUES!