Just like last week, Chelsea head into Thursday night’s Europa League encounter against Malmö FF desperately in need of a win. With the rest of the season quickly going downhill — out of the top four, out of the FA Cup, and probably about to lose badly in the League Cup final — the Europa League probably represents the Blues’, and certainly Sarri’s, only realistic chance of salvation.
A win against Malmö may still not be enough to save Sarri’s job, especially if it’s followed up by repeat embarrassments against Manchester City (League Cup final) and Spurs (at home in the league), but it’s probably a minimum requirement to keep it. (Unless we’ve become strangely complacent and accepting of mediocrity.)
Chelsea do have a 2-1 lead from the first leg — should’ve been far more comfortable, but this is just how things go these days — so technically we don’t actually have to win to advance into the last 16, and a draw, or even a 0-1 loss would do, but surely this is as must-win of a game as they come in this situation.
Date / Time: Thursday, February 21, 2019, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Orel Grinfeld (ISR) — the 37-year-old from Israel has been a FIFA referee since 2012, but this will be his first senior Chelsea match. He did take charge of Chelsea U19’s 1-0 quarterfinal win against an Ajax side featuring Matthijs de Ligt, Justin Kluivert, and Appie Nouri in the 2015-16 UEFA Youth League. Chelsea’s goal was scored by Kyle Scott, who’s apparently back at Cobham these days after getting recalled from loan in January?
Forecast: Light clouds, light breeze, but fairly mild
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); UniMás (USA); SONY TEN 2? (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live, Univision NOW (USA); SONY LIV? (India)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea followed up the first away goals and first away win of 2019 with yet another shambolic display, this time at home in the 2-0 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup. Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss — the Blues can’t seem to find consistency, let alone telling quality.
On the plus side, that means it’s going to be a win today, right? We should see plenty of rotation — and either way, Callum Hudson-Odoi simply has to start if Sarri wants to avoid a riot.
Chelsea will be without Kepa Arrizabalaga, who’s picked up a minor hamstring strain having had to pick the ball out of the back of his net dozens of times in recent weeks. Pedro and Davide Zappacosta are also out, due to
an unspecified illness stomach flu. Ruben Loftus-Cheek had been dealing with a back injury recently as well, but hopefully will be good to go this time.
Malmö FF team news: Malmö are still over a month away from the official start of their league season, but they did beat second division Degerfors 3-2 in the first matchday of the Swedish Cup over the weekend. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain in this second leg, but they created a few problems for Chelsea last week, and that will certainly give them some early confidence.
Previously: Chelsea win 2-1 in Sweden on Valentine’s Day, with Ross Barkley making an impact and Giroud scoring a goal as well.