No time to dwell on the heartbreaking defeat in the Carabao Cup final, as Chelsea host fierce London rivals Tottenham in what could be a decisive game in the Blues’ hopes of finishing in the top four. Maurizio Sarri showed on Sunday that he is actually able to adjust his tactics and switch things up, so it will be intriguing to see whether he chooses to do so once more (spoiler alert: probably not).
Sarri claimed that whether Kepa plays or not will depend on what “the group” (i.e. the squad) decide, but chances are he will be out there after accepting the fine of one week’s wages without any problem following the remarkable “misunderstanding” of Sunday night.
Chelsea’s back line did a tremendous job against Manchester City’s lethal attacking force and, as the next fixtures are more suitable for rotation (Fulham away, Dynamo Kiev at home), I can see Sarri going with the same back four.
Mateo Kovačić was an unused substitute on Sunday, so surely he will rotate in, but unless he does so for Jorginho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley will have to take a seat on the bench instead.
Sarri’s big surprise in Sunday’s lineup was to revert to the false-9, dropping his “footballing son” Gonzalo Higuaín to the bench. Surely, that won’t happen in two consecutive games. The inclusion of Eden Hazard is a no brainer, but the right wing spot seems very much up for grabs. Both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi played well in the last game, but history favors the former.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Kovačić, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Higuaín, Willian
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
‘Kepa-gate’ divided opinions as it was happening and especially in its aftermath, and so it was in the WAGNH community’s preference as well, with Arrizabalaga just barely edging out Willy Caballero (48%) by less than 20 votes (from ~1000 responses). Otherwise, the preferred team is nearly the exact same one that ended the game against Manchester City, with the exception of Christensen coming in for David Luiz (42%). Hudson-Odoi is clearly preferred to Willian (24%) and Pedro (9%) while Barkley (18%) and Kovačić (44%) are dropped for favored son Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Meanwhile, Sarri-ball gets a boost back up to 66% after the flexibility it showed on Sunday.
Arrizabalaga (50%) | Emerson (83%), Christensen (69%), Rüdiger (90%), Azpilicueta (90%) | Loftus-Cheek (77%), Jorginho (58%), Kanté (97%) | Hazard (93%), Higuaín (88%), Hudson-Odoi (84%)
Other than Christensen coming in for Rüdiger instead of David Luiz, my preferred lineup is identical to the community’s preference as best team available for Sarri. Strength, agility, pace and defensive solidity — this team has it all and should give Spurs a run for their money.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Higuaín, Hudson-Odoi
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!