Image Source: Chronicle
I want to rant about the Liverpool game. There were so many talking points – or if you’re in the real media rather than my biased blogging world – non-talking points. Sunday was traumatic for many reasons and I wasn’t having smoke bombs lobbed at me.
I could take the defeat though, Mo Salah’s goal was brilliant and Liverpool deserved the win, but this media news blackout of some of the events that occurred up at Anfield is disheartening. It’s understandable on the weekend that Liverpool commemorated the awful event’s of Hillsborough that there is, of course, a respect that must be observed. But even so, if that had been Chelsea supporters, well, we know what outcry there would have been.
There appears to be no parity when it comes to the fans and supporters of football teams, at least in sections of the media. However, we’ve been here before, and no doubt Chelsea supporters next transgression will be everywhere for the world to see. Rather than show support for their own supporters immediately after the event, Chelsea waited until Liverpool came out and condemned the smoke bomb incident and homophobic chanting before making their own statement. That too is disappointing.
But our attention turns back to football rather than what goes on around it. It’s back to Europa League action on Thursday when Slavia Prague visit Stamford Bridge in the quarter-final second-leg. Chelsea lead 1-0 from the first-leg, Marcos Alonso’s late headed goal secured victory out in Prague. There’s no reason for Maurizio Sarri’s team to not get the job done at home.
It’s more difficult to judge Sarri’s selections now he’s begun to regard ‘the yoof’ as trustworthy in their respective positions. Which competition he thinks is his best hope of Champions League football also has to be taken into account. Personally, I’m not sure what that is, after Sunday’s defeat, Europe may be his best hope.
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga, of course, plays there really isn’t much else to say.
Defence – It’s difficult to imagine Sarri shifting too far away from the team played out in Prague. Obviously, Antonio Rudiger is now injured and as such Andreas Christensen ought to get a run of games until the end of the season. Gary Cahill, so out of favour with the Italian should find himself promoted to the bench. Heady stuff for the forgotten Englishman. Cesar Azpilicueta is still good enough to keep Davide Zappacosta out of the team and David Luiz will certainly be above Cahill in Sarri’s pecking order. Marcos Alonso with that goal ought to return to left-back. Emerson played against Liverpool, but I’m not seeing much between either and Alonso is at least a goal threat.
Midfield – It’s difficult to imagine Sarri using anyone but Jorginho at the base of his midfield three even though Mateo Kovacic has previously played there. However, N’golo Kante was rested in Prague, so it is possible Jorginho could miss out this time. Kante didn’t have a great game at Anfield and it will remain the frustration of the season that the little Frenchman has been played out of position. No matter what the Sarri-tologists say, he has. Ross Barkley has improved this season under Sarri but is still a way short of what Chelsea require from their attacking midfielder. However, he does have homegrown status and still has the potential to add goals to his game.
Attack – Maurizio Sarri returned Eden Hazard to the role of the false number nine at the weekend. To be fair to the Italian it nearly worked as well. After a good first half, Chelsea were undone by two quick goals. Hazard, unusually missed a couple of chances to get Chelsea back into the game. Hazard’s likely to miss out and Olivier Giroud will return looking to increase his Europa League goal tally. Willian was the man-of-the-match in Prague and was unfortunate to miss out on scoring. Whilst there are many that still dislike him in the starting XI he can score goals and is always a threat from set-pieces. Callum Hudson-Odoi is good enough and fit enough for a run of games in the side. Quite whether Sarri sees it that way remains to be seen.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso, Kovacic, Kante, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Willian
Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000