Thanks to Chelsea’s immediate competitors all dropping points since the international break, the blues are well and truly (back) in the race for Champions League football. A win would see Chelsea return to the top four after a lengthy absence, even if only temporarily, making this game against London rivals West Ham United an absolute must win. But with three games coming up in the space of seven days, picking the right squad rotation will be key.
It will be interesting to see how many of the eleven who played against Brighton will get to keep their places, but one man who will definitely start is Kepa Arrizabalaga. Barring injury or another “mutiny”, he’ll probably get all the rest of the meaningful ones until the end of the season..
If Sarri sticks to his usual midweek/weekend rotation, this game as well as next weekend’s trip to Anfield will get the ostensibly “first-string” group while Thursday’s game in Prague will get the second-string. But which player is in which group?
In defense, three of the four are easy to name: César Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger. Alonso may still be in there despite his woeful individual performance of late, but because he’s coming off a hamstring injury, Sarri might have to go with Emerson for now.
In midfield, two of the three are easy to name: Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté. Loftus-Cheek is a fitness concern, and we do have three options for the third spot, so let’s go with Ross Barkley, who did not play on Wednesday.
In attack, only Eden Hazard is easy to name. On merit alone, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson-Odoi “should” start, but they’ve been part of the Europa League / midweek campaigns all season, and Sarri probably will continue with that arrangement as long as Chelsea continue to make progress.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta | Barkley, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Higuaín, Willian
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community keeps it far more simple than Sarri and wants to instead roll with the in-form players of Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Brighton. With the exception of David Luiz (51%) getting a breather in favour of Rüdiger, this is the same lineup as five days ago. Loftus-Cheek does just barely edge out Barkley (44%) and Kovačić (30%), but there’s little doubt elsewhere with Alonso (5%), Pedro (2%), Willian (28%), and Higuaín (36%) not preferred.
Arrizabalaga (99%) | Emerson (92%), Christensen (74%), Rüdiger (75%), Azpilicueta (94%) | Loftus-Cheek (48%), Jorginho (76%), Kanté (97%) | Hazard (94%), Giroud (63%), Hudson-Odoi (81%)
There’s no arguing with the community’s lineup, though I still prefer David Luiz to Rüdiger, though he may need a bit of a rest ahead of a congested schedule.
Arrizabalaga | Emerson, Rüdiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kanté | Hazard, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!