Chelsea are having a season like no other, at least in recent years. It’s neither boom or bust nor feast or famine. Knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, and beaten to the Carabao Cup by City, the Europa League and a top-four spot in the Premier League are still within reach.
Thursday evening saw Dynamo Kiev defeated 3-0 at Stamford Bridge all but sealing a place in the quarter-finals of a competition they last won in 2013. Chelsea return to league action on Sunday with Wolverhampton Wanderers visiting the Bridge.
Considering it’s their first season back in the top flight Nuno Espirito Santo has really got his Wolves side playing attractive football. Back in December Chelsea lost 2-1 at Molineux and on the road, Wolves are unbeaten on their travels to London having won three games and drawn two.
Maurizio Sarri rotated his squad to a degree against Kiev, but it was a starting XI that caused a degree of consternation amongst Chelsea’s fanbase. His reluctance to play the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi with any real conviction can no longer be regarded as stubborn, it’s stupid.
In all likelihood, it will be the same old, same old come lunchtime Sunday, team selection wise. With Arsenal taking on United after the Chelsea game, a win will see the Blues in that crucial fourth spot, at least for a short while.
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga’s short spell on the naughty step is forgotten and in last weeks game against Fulham, he helped secure the points with two vital saves. Maurizio Sarri believes the incident in the Carabao Cup final has strengthened his squad,
“I think at the end, the Kepa situation was a good thing for our group. In the last five matches, we won four and drew against Manchester City. In five matches we conceded only one goal, so now we are improving in consistency and defensive solidity.”
Source: The independent
Defence – Sarri’s right, the defence have certainly tightened up since that staggering capitulation up at the Etihad. Cesar Azpilicueta was rested in midweek and is set to wrestle the captain’s armband from David Luiz who had a good game against Kiev. Antonio Rudiger had no need to hustle on Thursday as sat the game out on the bench but should return against Wolves. Emerson has edged in front of Marcos Alonso as the first choice left-back as Sarri’s dream back four are reunited.
Midfield – In my head – as it enters Sarri-mode – the central three are obvious. Jorginho scored his second Chelsea goal at Fulham, he took it well too, but it’s not really in his job description. Goal scoring is in the remit of N’golo Kante and slowly but surely he’s adjusting his game to suit the system whether we, as fans, like it or not. The midfield dream team is complete with Mateo Kovacic on board. Sarri will no doubt return to replacing him with Ross Barkley with 65 minutes gone.
Attack – Eden Hazard has been rested and will be looking to continue the form that has seen him score 12, and assist 11 times in 27 league games. Despite a fine 15-minute cameo in the Europa League, Callum Hudson-Odoi will not be starting this game. Clearly, Sarri is not one for rushing the development of the ‘kids’. Pedro and Willian both scored against Kiev, Pedro should have scored more and on another day he probably would have. Gonzalo Higuain is still yet to reach to heights that Sarri remembers from his time at Napoli but there have been some signs that there is still a goalscorer within the Argentine somewhere.
We’ve not seen it for a while, but this is Sarri’s default side. If he can get it ticking as he believes it should then the season could yet be nearer to one that booms rather than one that goes bust.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Emerson, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Hazard, Pedro, Higuain
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