Maurizio Sarri might be compelled to field Eden Hazard in a False Nine role in search of goals as Chelsea take on Newcastle United on Saturday.
Chelsea are struggling to put the ball into the back of the net, which has already cost them a tie against Tottenham in the first-leg of the Carabao Cup semi-finals while a 0-0 draw with Southampton saw them fall further behind in the title race. Maurizio Sarri will be keen to make a few changes to the lineup when they face Newcastle.
One of the major changes to Sarri’s lineup in the recently congested fixture list has been the entry of Andreas Christensen at the back. The towering defender has started two games in the last week, with David Luiz making way for the Danish centre-back last time out. While Sarri has taken note of the defender’s improvement, he hinted in his pre-match conference that the player might not be fit enough to start on Saturday.
“He has improved in defending by looking at the ball. Now he is ready to play. We have a very good option for David, for Rudiger. I don’t know about tomorrow because he played 2 matches in three days for the first time this season.”
The back four thus, will look the usual, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso likely to take the field, despite Alonso coming in for criticism for his latest performances.
In midfield, Cesc Fabregas has bid adieu to his Premier League career, joining AS Monaco. Apart from Fabregas, Ross Barkley has disappointed with his performances while Danny Drinkwater is a defined outcast at the moment at Chelsea. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is unlikely to be fit in time to feature, which means Mateo Kovacic should start alongside the two certainties – N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
As far as the attack is concerned, Maurizio Sarri heaped praise on Callum Hudson-Odoi while also lamenting the profligacy of his strikers.
“Of course Loftus-Cheek is out at the moment. Then yesterday Alvaro trained with his team-mates. We have to see the last training session today. I hope he will be able to play.”
“We need to score. We need to solve this problem. In the last match we played very well, with continuity and with a very good offensive and defensive phase, and with a great performance from a physical point of view – the best of the season – but we didn’t score. We have to work and try to solve it as soon as possible.”
With Willian also linked with a move elsewhere, we could see Pedro start on the right. And judging by Sarri’s comments, Morata is unlikely to be fit, which means Eden Hazard could start in a False Nine role. Callum Hudson-Odoi should ideally complete the lineup.