Chelsea’s form has taken a nosedive during the past few weeks and months, and it’s tough to be confident about finishing in the top four (let alone winning the League Cup final on Sunday against Manchester City). The Europa League therefore probably represents the Blues’ best chance at qualifying for the Champions League next season. Maurizio Sarri could thus be tempted into fielding a strong lineup against Malmö FF, though even a fully rotated one should (“should”) be able to take care of business.
With Kepa Arrizabalaga ruled out due to a hamstring injury, Willy Caballero will be called upon to keep things neat and tidy at the back. The 37-year-old has barely featured this season but his vast experience should serve him well.
Davide Zappacosta will also miss out, due to illness, so César Azpilicueta is set to keep his place at right-back. Emerson and Andreas Christensen should rotate in as usual, with Alonso and David Luiz making way.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek seems to have finally overcome his latest back injury, and should get the nod to provide some actual attacking impetus from midfield. Jorginho is due to rotate out with Mateo Kovačić getting another turn at regista, but unless Ethan Ampadu makes a surprise appearance, N’Golo Kanté will not have that luxury.
If Sarri knows what’s good for him, he’ll start Callum Hudson-Odoi, even if that may be too much common sense to hope for. Olivier Giroud and Willian should be rotating in, especially with Pedro also sidelined with some sort of illness.
Caballero | Emerson, Christensen, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Loftus-Cheek, Kovačić, Kanté | Willian, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community’s preferred lineup features Kepa in goal, but he’s since been ruled out so Caballero (33%) should start. There were several close calls elsewhere in the starting lineup, with Loftus-Cheek edging out Barkley (51%) and Ampadu (44%), Azpilicueta narrowly beating the injured Zappacosta (44%), Higuaín retaining his place just ahead of Giroud (49%) and Hazard doing the same ahead of Willian (48%).
Hudson-Odoi received the most votes of any player, with 94% of respondents urging Sarri to see the light.
Meanwhile, Sarriball drops to a season low 42%, though still well ahead of a standard 4-3-3 (24%), a standard 4-2-3-1 (21%), and Conte-ball (10%).
Arrizabalaga (60%) | Emerson (85%), Christensen (92%), Rüdiger (62%), Azpilicueta (54%) | Loftus-Cheek (55%), Kovačić (63%), Kanté (77%) | Hazard (50%), Higuaín (52%), Hudson-Odoi (94%)
My preferred lineup is basically the same as last week, except for Caballero and Willian coming in due to injuries. It’s do or die for Sarri, but Hudson-Odoi not starting would surely cast yet another vote for the latter outcome.
Caballero | Emerson, Christensen, Ampadu, Azpilicueta | Loftus-Cheek, Kovačić, Kanté | Willian, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!