Maurizio Sarri has an injury crisis on his hands ahead of Chelsea’s first game of 2019, as Southampton pay them a visit at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Chelsea will be hoping to begin 2019 just like they had ended 2018, when they play hosts to Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. Maurizio Sarri though, has a major selection headache to deal with, and not one that managers look forward to.
The Chelsea boss is set to be without as many as seven first-team players due to various injuries, which have left him down to his bare bones, as far as personnel in midfield and attack are concerned. Defence though, is one area that is giving Sarri no problems, at least in terms of fitness troubles.
Sarri does have the option to rotate one or two defenders in the back four. But, with the FA Cup fixture against Nottingham Forest looming, the Chelsea manager can rest his key men at the back this weekend.
Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso should thus, be facing Southampton, with the backline providing cover to Chelsea no. 1 Kepa Arrizabalaga once again.
In midfield, Sarri is bereft of the services of Danny Drinkwater (knock), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (back) and Cesc Fabregas (hamstring). And, the Chelsea boss provided the update on his injured midfield personnel in the aftermath of the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.
“Yesterday in 10 minutes we had three injuries: Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek and Drinkwater. Fabregas has a neck injury. I don’t know how long he will be out for. I don’t know if he has to rest for two days or for 10 days.”
The injury problems mean Sarri has just Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic as his options for three positions. While Jorginho and Kante are certain starters, the final spot should see a bit of rotation, meaning Kovacic is likely to return to the side in Barkley’s stead.
Up ahead in attack, the major absentees for Chelsea are Pedro (hamstring) and Olivier Giroud (ankle), with the game also likely to come too soon for Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring). Giroud picked up an ankle injury last weekend, which has left Sarri exasperated.
“The problem is his ankle. I don’t know the extent at the moment. We have to wait until tomorrow. Later this evening I will see the doctor for the first result. In the last two days we were a bit unlucky. Now today Giroud, and we were already without Pedro and Hudson-Odoi, so now we are in trouble because in January we have to play every three days.”
With Pedro and Giroud on the sidelines, Alvaro Morata is in line to return to the starting lineup for the first time in three weeks. Morata should be accompanied in attack by Willian and Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard.