Chelsea’s season might have seen several ups and downs, but we find ourselves within touching distance of our third Champions League final appearance nevertheless. The return leg against Real Madrid takes place at Stamford Bridge and while the away goals rule favours us, a single mistake could undo a lot of hard work. Concentration will be key.
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
To master the task ahead, the WAGNH community had a very clear idea in mind and that includes just one change to the team that started last Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, that’s neither the formation nor the goalkeeper, with the 3-4-3 and Édouard Mendy uncontested by either the 4-2-3-1 (8%) or Kepa Arrizabalaga (3%).
The one surprise (though not the one change) is the inclusion of César Azpilicueta at wing-back, ahead of Reece James (55%). The trio of Antonio Rüdiger, Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen start in the centre, with Kurt Zouma (9%) acting as back-up. Ben Chilwell keeps his spot easily ahead of Marcos Alonso (5%).
With Mateo Kovačić sadly also missing the second leg against his former club, a pivot of Jorginho and vote-leader N’Golo Kanté is the only realistic choice. Billy Gilmour (2%) returns to the bench after a rare start against Fulham.
The front three sees the one change (though not the one surprise) as Kai Havertz leads the line ahead of Timo Werner (51%), Olivier Giroud (8%) and Tammy Abraham (3%). Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic were two of Chelsea’s best performers in the first leg so it only makes sense that they start here, too. This means that Hakim Ziyech (11%) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (5%) miss out.
Mendy (96%) | Rüdiger (91%), Silva (95%), Christensen (66%) | Chilwell (92%), Kanté (98%), Jorginho (91%), Azpilicueta (70%) | Pulisic (89%), Havertz (60%), Mount (96%)
MY PREFERRED CHOICE
Both James and Christensen have performed exceptionally well since Tuchel’s taken over, and the exclusion of any of them seems unfair. Yet making difficult choices is a part of the occasion and I agree with the community that Christensen is the more instrumental right now.
This lineup is definitely the most difficult one to pick in a very long time. The stakes are so, so high and any mistake could (and will) cost us dearly. So sticking to your guns seems the most reliable option here and, while I’m concerned with playing Azpilicueta as a wing-back, it did work in the first leg. We can only hope it does so again.
Having said that, I’m quite happy that I only needed to make these choices hypothetically. While having depth in a squad is always a good thing, I honestly don’t envy Tuchel here.
Mendy | Rüdiger, Silva, Azpilicueta | Chilwell, Kanté, Jorginho, James | Pulisic, Havertz, Mount