Mateo Kovacic will replace the injured Ross Barkley when Chelsea face off against Ajax in their third UEFA Champions League Group H fixture.
Chelsea will be looking to climb atop the UEFA Champions League Group H standings when they take on Ajax at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Wednesday night. And, Frank Lampard has been handed another injury blow ahead of his side’s third fixture in Europe’s premier club competition.
The Chelsea boss provided an update on all of his injured players during his pre-match conference, with Ross Barkley, who picked up an ankle problem this past weekend against Newcastle United, only being a short-term absentee. N’Golo Kante, too, could be back in contention soon, while Antonio Rudiger is training with the first-team.
“Ross will hopefully be fit to train by the time we get back on Thursday. Toni trained with us today which is part of a small programme to have him fit. He is out of contention for the weekend but [he will be] hopefully soon. N’Golo similarly is training but we shall see how he is for the weekend. We are not clear yet on that one.”
Kepa Arrizabalaga is a certain starter in goal for Chelsea, although he should see a shift in system in front of him. Following the success of the 3-4-3 against Lille, Lampard could make use of the formation once again against a tricky Ajax side, with Cesar Azpilicueta dropping back into the three-man central defensive partnership.
Azpilicueta will have Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma for company in the back-three, with Andreas Christensen still recovering from the hamstring injury he picked up during the international break. Barkley’s absence, meanwhile, means Lampard is stretched for options in midfield as well.
Teenage prodigy Billy Gilmour is a part of the travelling squad to face Ajax. But, the 18-year-old is likely to be a backup option, with Mateo Kovacic expected to come into the side in place of Barkley. Kovacic will partner Chelsea vice-captain Jorginho in the midfield double pivot.
The shift in system should bring the best out of Marcos Alonso, who will be the left wing-back, with Reece James likely to line up on the opposite flank and get another chance to impress. Lampard heaped praise on Callum Hudson-Odoi during his press conference.
But, the young winger could drop out of the side despite impressing against Newcastle, with Mason Mount moving out on the left side of the Chelsea attack. Willian is an automatic selection on the right flank, with Tammy Abraham set to lead the line for Chelsea once again, when they pay Ajax a visit.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori; James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Willian, Abraham, Mount