Without a doubt one of the toughest fixtures of the season, Chelsea visit defending champions Manchester City today. Both teams desperately need to win to keep pace in the race for the title (City) and the top four (Chelsea). While Chelsea won in the reverse fixture back in November, winning at the Etihad is not something that can be expected.
Kepa Arrizabalaga starts in goal, as always. Facing one of the deadliest forwards in the Premier League, these are the games in which heroes are born.
Despite Andreas Christensen and Emerson receiving game time in the league recently — and playing quite well — it does look highly likely that Maurizio Sarri will revert back to his “trusted” back four consisting of Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger and César Azpilicueta. It remains to be seen whether this is a good choice against an attack with as much pace to burn such as Manchester City’s.
Ross Barkley’s attacking contributions may not always be as high as many would like, but he brings a certain balance to Chelsea’s midfield. For that reason, I can see Sarri going with Ross alongside the usual duo of N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho.
Pedro’s poor display against Bournemouth and Willian’s good display against Huddersfield should mean the latter getting the nod on the right side of the budding Gonzalo Higuaín and Eden Hazard partnership (both of whom scored a brace last weekend).
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Barkley, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Higuaín, Willian
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s choices weren’t all as clear cut as it might have been expected. There are three very tight battles, one in each stratum. In defense, Alonso is favoured over Emerson (48%) by the very narrowest of margins, while Kovačić just about beats Loftus-Cheek (41%) and, by a more obvious margin, Barkley (26%). In attack, the three right-side options practically split the vote in third, with Hudson-Odoi narrowly preferred to Pedro (30%) and Willian (33%). Meanwhile, Higuaín has left Giroud (2%) with absolutely no chance.
Arrizabalaga (98%) | Alonso (51%), David Luiz (78%), Rüdiger (84%), Azpilicueta (97%) | Kovačić (48%), Jorginho (83%), Kanté (98%) | Hazard (99%), Higuaín (98%), Hudson-Odoi (40%)
What I believe to be Chelsea’s best eleven is close to the preferred eleven, but with Emerson instead of Alonso (especially against pacy wingers) and Loftus-Cheek, who provides the perfect link between midfield and attack, in the center. While I do believe that Hudson-Odoi is more dangerous than either of Pedro or Willian, I’d understand Sarri not wanting to throw the youngster into the deep end on this occasion.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Higuaín, Hudson-Odoi
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!