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Well, this is tricky. Maurizio Sarri has called the players out but does he play them or drop them in the upcoming Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham. Chelsea are a goal down from the first leg at Wembley but unlike Spurs who will be missing crucial players, Sarri more or less has a full squad at his disposal.
Not only that, there’s the vague – at the time of publishing – possibility that Gonzalo Higuain will make his debut for Chelsea. Whilst the media gleefully report on another ‘Chelsea crisis’ the opportunity still exists for the club to shove that negativity where the sun doesn’t shine by making the first final of the season. Let’s hope the manager and players can all pull together for this one game.
Without dwelling too much on the weekend’s proceedings Chelsea’s performance against the other North London team, Arsenal was not particularly inspiring. It’s been a familiar story through the season as Sarri tries to implement his tactical plans and adjust the starting XI accordingly.
It’s easily forgotten that Chelsea still remain in every competition entered. That might not suit the Chelsea narrative and it could all change in the coming week, but right now it’s indisputable. The big question is – does Maurizio Sarri stick or twist with Thursday’s team selection.
Goalkeeper – Of course, it’s Kepa Arrizabalaga who will line-up in the Blues goal. The youngster has done very little wrong whilst those in front of him ebb and flow from good to bad and back again. The real decisions for Sarri come further up the field.
Defence – One player not lacking motivation is Cesar Azpilicueta who’s the nearest Chelsea have to any kind of on-field leader. As captain, he needs to gel the ne’er-do-well’s around him working as one functional unit. Antonio Rudiger also has the potential to step up and show leadership qualities, something severely lacking in the team at present. The remaining two defensive places give Sarri the chance to rotate, I don’t see it though. Not to say David Luiz and Marcos Alonso are any more worthy of dropping than anyone else, Sarri won’t though and they will also make the starting XI in an unchanged back four.
Midfield – In the same way the defence stays the same, it’s hard to imagine Sarri dropping Jorginho. He’s the key to the whole system. If the Italian can’t trust the Italian of Brazilian heritage then the system will never work. Out of position or not N’golo Kante is in everyone’s team. The final midfield spot remains the only one up for grabs. With Ruben Loftus-Cheek still resting his back problem, Sarri will likely retain Mateo Kovacic and in doing so maintain the status quo in midfield.
Attack – Having told the players what he thought of them so publicly, Maurizio Sarri would surely do good by giving them the chance to put right those motivational wrongs. It wouldn’t be my choice but this could be the last chance saloon for some of these players. Assuming Higuain doesn’t make it, poor old Eden Hazard will be good to go as the extremely false 9. If Hazard is trying to create chances for his invisible twin, it will be Willian and Pedro left wondering who’s in the box.
I might be wrong, in fact, I hope I am wrong and Sarri makes wholesale changes. Higuain may come in and score a hat-trick but I can’t help but think it will be the same old same old. At least for this game. Depending on the performance – not the result – there could be changes on the horizon.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Pedro, Hazard
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @techlec2000
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