Chelsea’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Manchester City has not only complicated our hopes of finishing in the top four, but has also led to the realization that prioritizing the Europa League may not be our worst option. Maurizio Sarri should be well aware of this as well, and a convincing reaction and win against Swedish side Malmö FF is absolutely imperative at this point.
Some rotation will be a good idea ahead of the FA Cup match against Manchester United on Monday, Kepa Arrizabalaga should continue to start in goal. The team may be shipping goals away from home by the bucketload, but few, if any, have been his fault.
With Marcos Alonso ‘rested’, Emerson is certain to start and he should be joined by Andreas Christensen and one of David Luiz or Antonio Rüdiger (with the latter more likely to be rested after a recent brush with a knee problem). Ethan Ampadu’s chances of starting remain slim, unfortunately. Completing the back could be Davide Zappacosta, making his first appearance since his min-transfer saga in January.
With Jorginho being in dire need of a rest, Mateo Kovačić will likely deputize as the regista at the base of midfield. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s back problem is ... back ... and he’s thus ruled out, and so is Danny Drinkwater despite getting registered for European competition in January after the departure of Cesc Fàbregas. Barkley and Kanté will likely complete the central trio, though Ampadu might be a look-in for the latter instead.
Since joining in January, Gonzalo Higuaín has started every game, so it’s surely time for Olivier Giroud to get a run-out, presumably flanked by Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi, neither of whom played on Sunday.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, Christensen, David Luiz, Zappacosta | Barkley, Kovačić, Kanté | Willian, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred lineup involved several surprising choices as neither Ampadu (42%) nor Zappacosta (43%) made the cut. Higuaín starts his fifth game in a row ahead of the out-of-favour Giroud (27%) while Hazard is clearly preferred to both Pedro (13%) and Willian (38%). Loftus-Cheek will definitely not feature, but we did not know this until yesterday, so he claims a spot ahead of Jorginho (24%).
This is a very strong lineup and less rotation than possibly expected from Sarri.
Arrizabalaga (79%) | Emerson (85%), Christensen (90%), Rüdiger (64%), Azpilicueta (57%) | Loftus-Cheek (80%), Kovačić (66%), Kanté (76%) | Hazard (61%), Higuaín (73%), Hudson-Odoi (93%)
I have no doubt that a centre-back pairing of Ampadu and Christensen would be more than capable of holding their own against Malmö and I hope Sarri thinks likewise. My preference would also be to drop Willian deeper into midfield (to replace Barkley after that horror show against City) and starting Pedro on the right wing.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, Christensen, Ampadu, Zappacosta | Willian, Kovačić, Kanté | Pedro, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!