Maurizio Sarri is likely to make a few changes to his Chelsea side, when they welcome Malmo FF for the second leg of their Europa League Round of 32 tie.
Chelsea will be hoping to avoid an upset and make it through the last 16 stages of the UEFA Europa League, when they play hosts to Swedish club Malmo FF on Thursday night.
Coming into the game with an advantage from the first leg, having beaten Uwe Rosler’s side 2-1 last week, Chelsea seem to have one foot through the door for the next round. But, after recently succumbing to a defeat against Manchester United in the FA Cup, Maurizio Sarri’s men need to ensure that they produce a professional display and seal safe passage through.
With the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City lying ahead, Sarri will be forced into resting some of his star players for the midweek encounter against Malmo. One first-team regular who is confirmed to miss out on Thursday is goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Spaniard is out with a hamstring problem, the manager has confirmed.
On player availability, Sarri says Pedro is suffering with a stomach ache, Kepa has a hamstring problem and Zappacosta has a fever. #CHEMAL
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 20, 2019
“We have a problem with Kepa, with his hamstring,” Sarri said in his pre-match press conference. When asked if the goalkeeper would be fit for the Carabao Cup final, the Italian added: “I hope so. I am not sure at the moment, but I hope so.”
With Kepa ruled out, veteran custodian Willy Caballero will come into the starting XI for Chelsea against Malmo. There are likely to be a few changes in defence as well, although Davide Zappacosta is set to miss out with a fever, which would mean Cesar Azpilicueta is bound to hold on to his spot at right-back.
Emerson Palmieri should get the nod over Marcos Alonso at left-back, while Andreas Christensen is likely to come into the lineup at the heart of the defence, alongside David Luiz. Antonio Rudiger will be afforded some rest ahead of the City game.
Midfield mainstay Jorginho too, could be given a breather by Sarri, meaning teenager Ethan Ampadu gets the nod as the deepest of the three midfielders for Chelsea. N’Golo Kante should hold on to his spot on the right of the midfield three, while the other slot is likely to be taken up by Ross Barkley, after he was overlooked for Mateo Kovacic last time out.
Wholesale changes in attack are on the cards for Chelsea when Malmo come visiting this week. Pedro, who started against Manchester United, is a major doubt with a stomach problem and should, in all likelihood, make way for Willian on the right flank.
Gonzalo Higuain is also expected to drop out of the lineup, with Olivier Giroud, who scored in the last game against Malmo, set to lead the line for Chelsea.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s non-involvement against Manchester United angered the Chelsea supporters no end. The academy graduate could be handed a start on Thursday, with Eden Hazard likely to be preserved keeping in mind the Manchester City encounter.