Having eased into the quarter-finals of the Europa League, where they’ll take on Sparta Prague, with an 8-0 aggregate demolition of Dynamo Kyiv Chelsea must now recover quickly before they travel to take on Everton in Sunday’s late kick-off.
With many Premier League clubs still involved in the FA Cup, Maurizio Sarri knows that this game in hand is crucial if his Blues side are going to gain the upper hand in the race for the Champions League positions. The resounding nature of Chelsea’s win in Ukraine means that several players have put themselves in contention for a starting place, with Marcos Alonso, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi all impressing as they vie for more regular game time.
Everton have had a full week to rest and over recent years produced some stellar performances against Chelsea especially at Goodison Park. Leighton Baines is the only known absentee for the Toffees, while Chelsea maintain a full bill of health heading into the match
GK - Kepa Arrizabalaga
It was surprising to see him start against Kyiv but never the less his inclusion is almost a formality.
RB - Cesar Azpilicueta
Azpilicueta has begun to look tired and rash in recent weeks when previously he was lauded for his composure and a cool head. He’ll need to track the runners Everton have off the ball.
CB - Antonio Rudiger
Everton don’t tend to operate with a target man and hence Rudiger’s day will be made a little bit more difficult as he has to ensure the likes of Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson are starved of possession.
CB - David Luiz
In a game that will be won and lost on the effectiveness of each team’s counter, Luiz needs to utilise his passing range to transition Chelsea quickly out of the defensive phases.
LB - Emerson
Irrespective of how well Marcos Alonso played against Dynamo Kyiv, Sarri has made it clear he favours Emerson at left-back.
CM - Ross Barkley
Didn’t play a particularly pivotal role in midweek but 90 minutes will have taken a lot out of N’Golo Kante, and with the side arriving back from Ukraine, there is little time for the Frenchman to recover. Hopefully Barkley can gain inspiration from coming up against his former employers.
CM - Jorginho
Jorginho has made improvements to his game, playing the ball with more pace and directness. He is now reliant on the players around him to offer more options off the ball.
CM - Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Given the opportunity to impress on Thursday and he did just that, grabbing an assist and generally using his sheer size to mobilise every Chelsea counter.
RW - Willian
Given the captain’s armband, the Brazilian wasn’t weighed down by the title, his deliveries from set pieces were exceptional and his form in the Europa League has proven to many fans he still has what it takes to play regularly for Chelsea.
ST - Gonzalo Higuain
His form has been patchy at best, only really turning up in the lesser fixtures. I say this every week, but now more so than ever, a goal and a match-winning performance from the Argentine would go a long way to proving his quality in a Chelsea shirt.
LW - Eden Hazard
For all the assertions that statistically he’s had the most prolific campaign of his career, Hazard is struggling to take charge of games with enough regularity and he needs to impact games at crucial periods.