Chelsea are well placed to reach the last 16 of the Europa League as they lead Malmo 2-1 ahead of Thursday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud either side of half time put the Blues in command of the tie, though Anders Christiansen did pull one back 10 minutes from time to give the Swedish side some hope.
However the Blues and especially Maurizio Sarri comes into this game under pressure after their 2-0 loss at home to Manchester United in the FA Cup earlier this week.
There has been talk this week that Sarri is on the brink of the sack, so this game is a must win to reduce the pressure on the under pressured Italian boss.
Malmo come into this game as massive underdogs, but they will be looking to upset the odds when they travel to Stamford Bridge on Thursday. They have a little bit of renewed hope after grabbing a vital goal late on in the first leg.
Recent form in all competitions for both teams
This second leg comes at an awkward time for Sarri, sandwiched by cup games against Manchester duo United and City. Changes can therefore be expected, though with the tie still in the balance it will not be a complete overhaul.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains doubtful with a back injury and Gary Cahill and Danny Drinkwater are also expected to miss out, though neither was likely to play a part anyway.
Sarri went with Giroud through the middle for the first leg and the Frenchman, having stayed on the bench against Man United, is almost certain to return on Thursday.
Willian, who has created 22 goal scoring chances for Chelsea in the 2018-19 Europa League, scoring two and assisting three goals, is also in line to return to the forward line, as is youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi.
In terms of the visitors, Rosler may stick with the same XI that started the first leg as he has no fresh injury problems to contend with.
Carlos Strandberg and Oscar Lewicki were brought off the bench to offer an attacking threat and are pushing for inclusion here, but Antonsson and Arnor Ingvi Traustason are more likely to be used from the off.
Predicted Line Ups
Chelsea possible starting lineup:Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi.
Malmo possible starting lineup:Dahlin; Nielsen, Bengtsson, Safari; Vindheim, Christiansen, Bachirou, Traustason, Rieks; Rosenberg, Antonsson.
Is this game on TV?
Yes. The coverage starts at 7:15pm on BT Sport 2 after the Arsenal vs BATE Borisov match.
Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri (Quotes Credit- @NizaarKinsella)
Sarri on fixing Chelsea: “As you know very well, it is not very easy. We have no time. We are trying to solve our problems. It is not easy because on the training pitch, we have no time at the moment. We are trying to talk to the players and avoid mistakes through video”
Sarri on whether he spoke to Marina or Roman Abramovich: “No, not in this week.”
Sarri on lack of fan patience in him at Chelsea: “I think the problem has been the performance and result against City. For that match, they are right. We played without the right mentality or soul. I don’t agree for the last match because we played a good match”
Sarri on Malmo: “The next match is a chance to qualify. We have to think only to this at the moment. After the Europa League match, we can think about the other match. We have to think about this match because it is not easy. The are very physical. Dangerous in the opp box”
Sarri on injuries: “We have Zappacosta with a fever. We have Pedro with a very strong stomach ache. We have a problem with Kepa’s hamstring.” Kepa to face City? “I hope so.”
Chelsea player: Antonio Rüdiger (Quotes Credit- @NizaarKinsella)
Rudiger on bad form: “Tough weeks for us but how to fix it? The easiest thing is to get back to getting results. It is all about results. When we had the results no one was talking about things we will talk about today”
Rudiger on what’s going wrong: “We have had too many ups and downs. That’s the cause of our situation today”
Rudiger on Sarri’s future: “I make nothing of that. It isn’t my thing, I am a football player and that’s it.”
Rudiger on playing for Sarri: “Of course, you do always play for your manager but you want results and you want to win. No player on earth would like to have this run that we have”
Rudiger on learning Sarri’s football:“If you sit in school the whole time and listen to someone, of course it gets mentally [tiring] but you have to do your job.”
Head to Head record
The meeting last week in the first leg was the first ever meeting between these two sides. Means that with 1 game played, Chelsea have won 1. There have been 0 draws between these sides, and Malmo have won 0 games against the Blues.
The Blues’ two previous ties against opponents from Sweden came in the European Cup Winners’ Cup when they were holders of the trophy, being eliminated by Atvidaberg on away goals in 1971-72 but progressing past Helsingborg 17 years later.
Malmo’s most famous fixture against English opposition was their first – the 1979 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final against Nottingham Forest, which they lost 1-0. Their only win against an English side came 16 years later when they beat Forest in the UEFA Cup.
Betting Odds/My Prediction
Sport Pesa have mave Chelsea clear favourites to win this game, with a Blues win being priced at 2/9. A draw between these two sides is being priced at 26/5. And a shock Malmo win is being priced at 51/4.
My realistic prediction for this game is a 3-1 win to Chelsea (5-2 agg). I think Chelsea should have enough quality too get the job done on Thursday, and I think Giroud, Hudson-Odoi and Barkley will get the goals for the West-Londoners.
My Optimistic prediction for this match is a 4-0 Chelsea win. Probably won’t happen but will be massive if it did, due to the fact that it will give the team a big confidence boost ahead of the Carabao Cup Final on Sunday against Manchester City.
By Danyal Khan