Just days after their draw at Leicester, Chelsea have embarked on a 6,000 mile round trip to America to take part in a one-off friendly match against the New England Revolution, in a decision largely condemned by Maurizio Sarri, who still has the pressing matter of guiding Chelsea to a first European title in six years.
The game is being billed as the “Final Whistle on Hate”, a key part of the “Say no to anti-Semitism” campaign. But despite the context in which the fixture is being played there is certainly no escaping the impractical nature of travelling such a distance just to play a friendly which will more than likely feature an array of youth team players.
The use of said academy players is a deliberate damage limitation policy by Sarri, as he seeks to preserve the fitness of a squad ravaged by injury in recent weeks.
Young full-back Reece James, who excelled on loan at Wigan, is in line for a start while fellow academy graduates Marc Guehi, Trevor Chalobah and Connor Gallagher have also travelled with the first team.
GK - Willy Caballero
Played well when called upon against Leicester, and with Kepa suffering from a couple of niggling injuries over the course of the season Caballero will most likely take up the mantle.
RB - Reece James
By far the most exciting player to return from the carousel of loan stars Chelsea have on their books. James captained Wigan on numerous occasions, winning their Player of the Year, as well as contributing to six goals despite playing right-back.
CB - Marc Guehi
Guehi will have his work cut out if he is to displace Antonio Rudiger and established understudy Andreas Christensen, but impressive performances for the academy have certainly alerted the attention of Sarri.
CB - David Luiz
One of the few individuals who will play a part both in America and Baku, but with little defensive cover at the moment Luiz will be relied upon to guide an inexperienced back line.
LB - Marcos Alonso
A conservative display against Leicester will have done little to convince Sarri he can trust him, and with few other options at left-back Alonso will be used to give Emerson some more rest bite ahead of the Europa League final.
CM - Ross Barkley
Barkley will need to be at his scintillating best if he is to force Sarri’s hand and give him something to think about.
CM - Trevor Chalobah
Has had a breakthrough campaign despite being relegated with Ipswich Town, and the match will provide him with a platform with which to impress Sarri first hand. An imposing presence in the midfield his height and power see him average over one dribble and shot per game as well as 1.3 tackles and interceptions respectively.
CM - Mateo Kovacic
Having struggled to recover from a back injury in recent weeks Ruben Loftus-Cheek will surely be rested with Kovacic taking his place for perhaps the last time in a Chelsea shirt.
RW - Pedro
Faded badly against Leicester, but with Chelsea taking on significantly weaker opposition Pedro will be expected to take control of proceedings and his link-up play with Willian will be crucial to ensuring the Blues still pick up a victory irrespective of the insignificant implications.
Sarri has a choice to make over who will start alongside Hazard in the final, and with neither Willian nor Pedro particularly impressing this is the final opportunity for one of them to seize their chance and represent the Blues in a European final on what could be their last appearance in a Chelsea shirt.
If Higuain really is to stay beyond his current contract he should treat this game as the start of a long and intensive training regime to properly prepare him for life as a Premier League striker.