The Europa League remains the most realistic avenue back into the Champions League for Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea.
The Blues’ upturn in form of late has seen them force their way back into the top four, but the race has never been so competitive. Our focus ought to remain, at least in part, on the Europa League.
Chelsea defeated Slavia Prague 1-0 on Thursday night to ensure we will have an, albeit slim, advantage heading into the second-leg. While we certainly fancy our chances, we can’t take anything for granted.
Slavia caused us problems, particularly in the wide areas. If not for the shot-stopping ability of Kepa Arrizabalaga, we may well have left Prague red-faced.
That’s why we believe that Sarri has to take no chances with the second-leg. The side that started in Prague was heavily rotated – it would be a huge risk to make that many changes for the return fixture.
We’d like to see Sarri field something like this. There’s no harm in resting key players, but the team needs to be good enough to get the job done, without hassle. If we were on the lookout for Europa League odds, we’d bank on this team getting us through.
Callum Hudson-Odoi should now be considered a first-team player, whose inclusion in a rotated team is only going to strengthen it. He has outperformed his seniors in recent weeks and months and has (finally) earned Sarri’s faith.
Sarri has staged somewhat of a revival at Stamford Bridge over the past few weeks. We feared that he was going to be the latest in a long line of managers discarded by Roman Abramovich – but he’s escaped, for now.
That’s in no small part due to the increased faith he’s had in both Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. He’s woken up and smelt the coffee, putting us in a great position to finish the season strongly.
Let’s start with this one at the Bridge…