Image Source: Brila
With Champions League qualification sorted out, Chelsea return to Europa League action safe in the knowledge that they’ll be eating at Europe’s top table next season. There is still an opportunity for Maurizio Sarri to add that elusive first trophy to his CV. Frankfurt visit Stamford Bridge tomorrow in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final.
Last week’s encounter saw Pedro give Chelsea the advantage of a vital away goal and something to build on at the Bridge. The time for being SarriIN or SarriOUT is gone, we have to get behind the team as Frankfurt’s supporters did in the first leg. They created a wall of noise and they’ll no doubt be just vociferous tomorrow.
After what has been a strange season there are still plenty of things left to tie up. We wait to see if FIFA give us a transfer ban, the possible departure of Eden Hazard is still pending,
Sarri has remained loyal to a small group of players throughout the season and that’s unlikely to change with just three possible games left. It was good to see that despite their obvious differences Gary Cahill was allowed to say goodbye to the supporters following the win over Watford.
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga made one outstanding save against Watford and kept another clean sheet on the weekend. If the club are able to strengthen in the summer, an improved defensive lineup will only help Kepa. He’s done well in his first season considering the somewhat wayward back four in front of him.
Defence – Cesar Azpilicueta rightly handed the captains armband over to Cahill on Sunday celebrating the Englishman’s successful Chelsea career. It’s that never say die mentality that Cahill developed alongside John Terry that has been missing for Chelsea since JT himself left the club. Moving forward that’s a problem the club must address. David Luiz and Andreas Christensen may not be the ideal central partnership but currently, they’re as good as it gets. Marcos Alonso has slowly regained some of the form he struggled to find all season and Emerson just hasn’t done enough to oust him from the team.
Midfield – Sarri’s decision to move N’golo Kante further forward and replace him with “his son” Jorginho has remained contentious throughout the campaign. Both players are on long contracts, if Sarri stays it will be interesting to see how both develop. Kante will most likely miss the rest of the season through injury and when he’s out it’s generally Mateo Kovacic that slots in. When he’s played Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been outstanding. He has real power and presence and surely now has done enough to become the second academy player to really impact the starting XI after JT.
Attack – With the season drawing to a close, Eden Hazard’s Chelsea career is most probably doing the same. All indications are that he’s off to pursue his dream in the summer. Good luck to him. Chelsea will carry on without him though. The club are bigger than any of its constituent parts. Pedro has improved and grown stronger throughout the season with his goals vital to Chelsea’s progression through this competition. Gonzalo Higuain scored against Watford and given time….who knows. However this competition belongs to Olivier Giroud, it’s on this platform that he shines the most.
This game is not as vital to Chelsea’s season as it was just seven days ago, but for Sarri without a trophy in his managerial career, he for one, will pushing his side for the win.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso, Jorginho, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Hazard, Pedro, Giroud
Follow Kevin on twitter @techlec2000