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Chelsea played as well against Tottenham in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup as they have against anyone for a while. Despite losing the game 1-0 Maurizio Sarri’s side showed significant signs of adapting to the Italian’s style of play against a side intent on stopping it.
Another positive over the last few games has been the tightening up of the defence. Whilst it’s clear the club desperately need someone who can score on a consistent basis the likelihood of the team conceding sloppy goals has receded.
Newcastle United are the visitors to Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening. With Tottenham taking on Manchester United the following day it’s a good opportunity for the Blues to make up points on either of the two. Sarri surprised a few people with his selection for the game at Wembley. Alvaro Morata was “injured” forcing a clearly unfit Willian back into the starting XI. With Eden Hazard playing the ‘false nine’ role, Callum Hudson-Odoi made up the front three, impressing in his second consecutive start.
There is still much speculation over likely signings and exits during the current transfer window. As it stands, Sarri has to juggle the same players that he has since the beginning of the season. He knows his best eleven but with a degree of uncertainty over outgoings and incomings, he may shuffle his favoured Premier League starting XI just a touch.
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga was at fault for the penalty that he conceded against Tottenham. Whether Harry Kane was offside – he was – or whether he dived – he did – Kepa outrageously misjudged the situation. His reckless attempt to get the ball ultimately resulted in a defeat. No matter though, there’s the home leg to come and Chelsea are still in with a good shot at making the final.
Defence – One of Sarri’s surprise picks at Wembley was Andreas Christensen in place of David Luiz. The Brazilian is set to resume his partnership with Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the defence. Cesar Azpilicueta is an automatic pick, leaving Sarri with the Marcos Alonso / Emerson conundrum. A quick look at ChelsTwit will tell you it’s Emerson that should be playing, Sarri will beg to differ though playing the Spaniard.
Midfield – One player comfortable with two games a week is N’golo Kante. It’s meat and drink to the omnipresent the Frenchman who is rapidly turning into the archetypal box-to-box midfielder. A spell of post-training shooting practice is all that stands between him and Frank Lampard. Sarri’s on-field general Jorginho will sit behind Kante dictating play, whilst Mateo Kovacic returns in place of Ross Barkley following an illness.
Attack – Alvaro Morata is a doubt for the game on several fronts. Whether it was his sulky non-celebration of the two goals he scored against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, an actual injury or simply the club protecting him ahead of a move away, Olivier Giroud will take on the striker’s role. Eden Hazard obviously plays, happily for him in his favoured free-roaming, creative role. With the club keen to keep Callum Hudson-Odoi out of the clutches of Bayern Munich and Willian possibly on the move, it’s the youngster, Chelsea’s future, should he chose, who completes the line-up.
Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Rudiger, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Hazard, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud
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