Chelsea’s match against Dinamo Zagreb is about as meaningless of a football match as a football match can get. Sure, there is the mob who must be entertained in the gladiatorial arena under the lights of a Champions League night, and obviously we would want to win every game ever, but in the grander scheme of the season itself, the result of this game matters not at all. We’ve won the group with a game to spare, despite a bad start, and we should reap the rewards of that. (Zagreb could get into the Europa League if they win and Salzburg lose to Milan, but none of that is our concern.)
Given the congested schedule, the three massive games upcoming in the ten days following, the squad’s fitness and injury concerns, and the supposed long-term plan of player development and pathways, you would think this would be a perfect game to see some fresh faces from the Academy joining in with the fringe players in the first-team.
That unfortunately doesn’t seem to be on the cards, with Graham Potter making it clear that he’s not about to hand out minutes “just for the sake of it”. He wouldn’t even go as far as confirming a start for minutes-less Denis Zakaria, who must be wondering just what the [FUN] is going on.
“We have to have respect for the competition and respect for the teams. We have to prepare to win. We’re at home, we want to finish the competition off well at this stage and we want to respond from the disappointment of the weekend. We’ll pick a team that we think can win with respect to the opponent and we’ll try our best.”
“I don’t think it’s a time to be using young players just for the sake of it. I think we have to be competitive and respectful of the competition. There are still teams looking for points for their own qualification. So from our perspective we have try and pick a team we think can win the game. We’ve used a lot of young players [and] I like the character, I like the personality and it’s been an important part of how we’ve started here at Chelsea to get closer to the academy guys and to get to know them.”
“[Zakaria] has been really good, he’s trained well, supported his teammates. Obviously disappointed not to play like everybody is but up until the weekend results have been positive, performances, we’ve been trying to take steps. He’s in the frame tomorrow, he’s in the squad, he’s available for selection so we’ll wait and see.”
So that’s pretty lame, though not anything new when it comes to decision-making from Chelsea head coaches. The more things change...
In terms of team news, Potter did confirm that Kepa will be out, and that Kalidou Koulibaly’s set to return. Mateo Kovačić is half-broken, but has not been ruled out because that would make too much common sense.
“Kepa won’t be available for the game, Slight issue with his plantar fascia. Looking at probably days but certainly not for the game tomorrow. Kovačić, just precautionary with his calf. Got a chance for the game tomorrow. We’ll make the decision later on. [Koulibaly] trained today so he was fine. He’s available and in the squad tomorrow.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
Well, let’s hope for an easy win at least, given all this wasted effort and workload.