Eden Hazard is likely to be rested when Chelsea take on Slavia Praha in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg at Eden Arena on Thursday.
Chelsea will be aiming to take a significant step towards reaching the penultimate stage of the UEFA Europa League when they lock horns with Slavia Praha at Eden Park on Thursday night. And, Maurizio Sarri will be buoyed by the fact that he has a full-strength squad at his disposal ahead of the crunch tie.
The Chelsea boss though, indicated during his pre-match press conference that he will rotate his side heavily for the trip to Prague, pointing towards the fixture congestion, “Slavia played on Saturday, we played on Monday, I don’t know why. Tomorrow we will have to change five or six players.”
One player who is expected to keep his spot is Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has generally started ahead of Willy Caballero in the Europa League as well. The Spaniard should be deployed between the sticks, but the defensive lines should see wholesale changes.
David Luiz has played three games in ten days post the international break and is due a rest. Luiz should be replaced by Andreas Christensen, who will have Antonio Rudiger as his partner at the heart of the Chelsea defence. The full-back slots should see complete shuffles, with Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso replacing Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri, respectively.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been in fine form lately but has been dealing with niggling back problems throughout the season, should be rested, with Ross Barkley taking his place. There had been talks from Sarri recently indicating that Mateo Kovacic can essay the same role as Jorginho does.
But, on Thursday, the Croat should start alongside Jorginho, reprising the N’Golo Kante role in midfield. The big talking point though, was whether Eden Hazard would start against Slavia Praha, and the Chelsea boss hinted that his star player could be rested, keeping the Liverpool game in mind.
“I don’t know. Yesterday he had only recovery training in the gym. I didn’t see him. This morning he was a little bit tired, like the other players who played 90 minutes [on Monday]. I want to wait until tomorrow morning’s session and then I will decide, but of course we have to play after three days in Liverpool.”
Hazard is unlikely to be a part of the starting lineup, with Willian, who will also don the armband for Chelsea, replacing him. In fact, the attacking unit should see a completely new look, with Olivier Giroud and Pedro coming into the starting lineup, meaning Callum Hudson-Odoi and Gonzalo Higuain will provide options from the bench.