Chelsea have a crucial away goal heading into tonight’s game against Eintracht Frankfurt at Stamford Bridge.
For that reason, I believe manager Maurizio Sarri may opt for Emerson Palmieri ahead of Marcos Alonso for this match to keep a clean sheet.
The rest of the back four pretty much picks itself with Gary Cahill (Achilles) and Antonio Rudiger (knee) both out of the game due to injuries. Here’s my predicted line up:
Kepa, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson, Kovacic, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
With N’Golo Kante (hamstring) missing for this game, I think Sarri will go with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic either side of Jorginho in a midfield three.
Ross Barkley would have have been the other candidate, but I don’t think the Italian is keen on having both the former Everton player and Loftus-Cheek in the same starting eleven.
Further up the pitch, I can’t see Sarri opting for Olivier Giroud ahead of Gonzalo Higuain despite the Frenchman starting the first leg, and having been ever-present in the competition this season.
The Argentinian striker scored against Watford at the weekend, and I think his upturn in form may sway Sarri’s thinking to picking him ahead of Giroud for this massive game.
The only other decision that the Chelsea head coach will be pondering is whether to opt for Pedro or Willian on the wing. Considering the Brazilian did not play at all well in the first leg, it seems Pedro is the clear favourite to get the nod.
After scoring the crucial away goal in the first leg, the 31-year-old is the likeliest to be picked. His form at home in recent games has also been superb. The Spaniard has now played a part in six goals in his last five starts at Stamford Bridge in all competitions (four goals and two assists).
As for Eden Hazard, we’ll just have to wait and see if this is indeed his final home game in a Blues shirt. The Belgian may give us an indication of his future intentions by the presence or absence of a goodbye at the end of the match.
Chelsea’s transfer ban should make a sale less likely but with the 28-year-old’s contract expiring in 2020, the prospect of the player leaving for nothing could force the club’s hand.
In any case, the game against Frankfurt tonight will give the Stamford Bridge crowd at least one more opportunity to see the Belgian magician in action.