After a year's absence, Chelsea return to the big stage as Valencia come to Stamford Bridge in the opening match of the Champions League group stage. While it’s uncertain how much rotation Frank Lampard will resort to, we should expect quite a few changes. The better question is which formation he’ll choose as Saturday’s surprise 3-4-3 turned out to be a stroke of genius.
THE PREDICTED LINEUP
The tactical tweak against Wolverhampton might have turned out to be a master stroke, but a more conservative 4-2-3-1 seems to be the more likely choice in this one.
Despite this being a midweek game, I doubt that Lampard will make a change at goalkeeper. Any other choice than Kepa Arrizabalaga would be a major surprise.
With Emerson and Antonio Rüdiger both ruled out, César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are likely to keep their places from the weekend. (Ed.note: The latter’s presence is perhaps the greatest argument for keeping the 3-4-3.) At centre back, Fikayo Tomori looks to be on rise, and looks set to keep his place, perhaps alongside Kurt Zouma (ed.note: although Andreas Christensen has the most extensive Champions League experience out of all of our center backs).
The continuing absence of N’Golo Kanté more or less guarantees another start for Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić, with Ross Barkley rotating in for Mason Mount further up the field.
Olivier Giroud lit up the European stage last season and is likely to get the start instead of Tammy Abraham or Michy Batshuayi, who’s made a few substitute appearances as of late. Continuing with the theme of rotation and European experience, Pedro and Christian Pulisic seem almost inevitable on the wings.
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, Tomori, Zouma, Azpilicueta (c) | Jorginho, Kovačić | Pulisic, Barkley, Pedro | Giroud
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The WAGNH community were torn regarding the starting formation, with the three-back setup narrowly favoured over the 4-2-3-1 (29%) and the 4-3-3 (25%). Same was the case with a few starters, as Giroud (36%), Pedro (51%) and Barkley (33%) miss out. Other than Zouma however, there was strong agreement over the choices in midfield and defence.
Arrizabalaga (95%) | Tomori (85%), Christensen (92%), Zouma (54%) | Alonso (91%), Kovačić (86%), Jorginho (93%), Azpilicueta (96%) | Mount (68%), Abraham (57%), Pulisic (76%)
MY PREFERRED LINEUP
I’m going to join in on the hype train and prefer three at the back as well. But I would like to see a well-deserved start for Michy Batshuayi.
Arrizabalaga | Tomori, Christensen, Zouma | Alonso, Kovačić, Jorginho, Azpilicueta | Mount, Batshuayi, Pulisic
COME ON, YOU BLUES!!!