Image Source: Chelseafc Online
Sunday sees Chelsea play their final home game in this season’s Premier League and could guarantee their place in the Champions League for next season. Under Maurizio Sarri, it’s been a long slog to get here as we’ve suffered with the ball as much as Antonio Conte’s Chelsea suffered without it. There’s no room for sentiment at this time of the season though, it’s simply a matter of winning at all costs.
Chelsea have, throughout Roman Abramovich’s tenure, been serial winners. The strength of character instilled within the workings of the club have delivered trophy after trophy. For many reasons though, that internal fortitude has slowly diminished, and as it ebbs away, so do the plaudits.
However, Sarri for all his faults got his team to the final of the League Cup, is flirting with Europa League glory and can qualify for the Champions League via league position. It’s not enough though. There aren’t many supporters who will look back on this season with any real fondness and they, we, only have ourselves to blame.
The toxic split between the Sarri-in, Sarri-out brigade misses the point totally. Whilst bickering over the rights and wrongs of ‘Sarri-ball’ and ‘Regista’s’ their backing of the team on the field has dipped and the atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge has had the lifeblood sucked out of it.
On the field, Sarri rested Eden Hazard against Frankfurt, and with Watford heading to the Bridge on Sunday, he’ll definitely need to be fighting fit. Watford have an uncanny habit of causing Chelsea one or two problems, but maybe they’ll have one eye on the FA Cup Final.
Sarri has used a relatively small group of players this season and that makes predicting his starting XI much simpler.
Goalkeeper – Against Frankfurt, Kepa Arrizabalaga was caught out by Luka Jovic’s deft header. Obviously, he’ll play in the game on Sunday afternoon.
Defence – Chelsea have simply not been good enough defensively this season. At differing times everyone has been culpable in one way or another. Injury to Antonio Rudiger hampers Sarri even more now. Cesar Azpilicueta captains the side and will start alongside David Luiz and Andreas Christensen. The Italian’s only option to rotate continues to be at left back. Marcos Alonso who scored that crucial goal following David De Gea’s costly mistake will take on his Premier League responsibilities. Watford will be keen to expose his defensive frailties.
Midfield – Love him or loathe him, Jorginho is integral to what Sarri is trying to achieve in SW6. The fact that it has seen N’golo Kante moved further upfield will forever be a contentious issue amongst the fan base. Ruben Loftus-Cheek asked to be taken off in the Europa League with cramp, and may well sit this one out. Ross Barkley has dropped off the radar for some reason leaving Mateo Kovacic free to take up the final midfield space.
Attack – With his Spanish exit ever closer Eden Hazard could be playing his final EPL game at the Bridge on Sunday. Without a doubt, the Belgian has even fantastic for the club and if he does go, he’ll be sorely missed. However, the club are bigger than any individual and will continue to compete without him. Pedro has been more prolific than Willian of late and hopefully carries that form on for the rest of the season. Last time out in the league against United Gonzalo Higuain was next to useless – he just was, yet he played the full 90 minutes. The Argentinian will lead the line in what could be one of his final games for the club.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Hazard, Pedro, Higuain
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