Photo Source: The Indian Express (Reuters)
Maurizio Sarri claimed that his players were not motivated after they suffered a 2-0 defeat against Arsenal. The public dressing down could have gone two ways. Some of the reaction from pundits who should have known better was frankly embarrassing.
Nobody knows how Sarri addressed the players either before or after that defeat. However, the media were quick to use an old narrative to suit their ‘same old Chelsea’ opinions. It might have been a weakened Tottenham side Chelsea knocked out of the Carabao Cup, but you can only beat what is before you.
The important thing for Chelsea fans was how the players reacted. The eleven who took to the field at Stamford Bridge certainly appeared motivated. Quite how Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovacic and Willian took to being dropped we don’t yet know, again we don’t know what the manager said to them.
As we near the end of January, Chelsea still remain in every competition they entered at the beginning of the season. They are still in the top four of the Premier League yet a quick scan of the social media networks sees “Chelsea are once again a team in crisis”. It’s a long-running theme that supporters are well used to.
Sunday sees Chelsea carry on their defence of the FA Cup with the visit of an old foe from the eighties Sheffield Wednesday. The two teams yoyo’d at the top of the then second division and enjoyed some epic battles. Who could possibly forget the League Cup quarter-final that saw a Paul Canoville inspired come-back at the Bridge.
Maurizio Sarri asked the question and the players answered but there will be some players emotionally drained from the Spurs game. Sarri will make wholesale changes against the side from South Yorkshire.
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga saved one spot kick in the shoot out and will get a well-deserved break on Sunday evening. With Gonzalo Higuain likely to play some part it will be good for Willy Caballero to share the pitch with his fellow Argentinian.
Defence – Cesar Azpilicueta was one pumped up Spaniard on Thursday and it will have taken its toll mentally. But, Chelsea’s team captain will want to play to keep that momentum going. Despite ‘toilet gate’ Andreas Christensen was due to start against Tottenham. However, he picked up in an injury in the run-up to the game and is unlikely to be able to start this one.
David Luiz blows hot and cold but as his winning penalty against Spurs showed, he has a strong mental attitude. Ethan Ampadu has looked like the real deal since his arrival. Many argue he should be playing more. This is another chance to impress as Antonio Rudiger takes a break. Marcos Alonso is Sarri’s preferred right back and although Emerson did well Alonso will once again attempt to prove the doubters wrong.
Midfield – Sarri’s midfield resources are somewhat limited. Cesc Fabregas is yet to be replaced and Danny Drinkwater is simply not Sarri’s cup of tea. There’s little option other than to play filthy penalty taker Jorginho. Sarri will be hoping the Chelsea board are able to bring in one more signing before the transfer window closes next Thursday. Like Azpilicueta, N’golo Kante also showed he’s up for the fight in the semi-final win. Mateo Kovacic didn’t start last time out so get’s the nod ahead of Ross Barkley as the two alternate in the starting XI.
Attack – With another piece of Maurizio Sarri’s jigsaw in place, Gonzalo Higuain has to make his debut in a Chelsea shirt and another potentially ill-fated number nine enters Chelsea’s history books. Big Hig will certainly give Chelsea’s front line a focal point that has been lacking for quite some time. Another youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi will take his place in the starting XI giving Bayern Munich a further scouting report as they continue their attempts to buy him. No need for Eden Hazard in this one, so, the final place goes to the other non-starter from Wednesday and everyone’s “favourite” wing-man Willian.
Caballero, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Ampadu, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Hudson-Odoi, Higuain
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