Mateo Kovacic will be back after serving his one match ban, while Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic are in line to start when Chelsea face Arsenal on Sunday.
Chelsea will travel to the Emirates Stadium this weekend as they gear up to take on local rivals Arsenal in their final Premier League encounter of 2019. And ahead of the game, manager Frank Lampard provided a fitness update on full-backs Marcos Alonso and Reece James, both of whom missed the Boxing Day contest against Southampton.
“Marcos Alonso got a small muscle injury against Tottenham but hopefully he’ll be okay,” revealed Lampard in his pre-match press conference. “Reece James probably won’t. He’s got an ankle injury and we need to look at it but I think it’s going to be a little longer.”
Along with James, Chelsea will also be without long-term absentees Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marco van Ginkel. However, they will be boosted by the return of Mateo Kovacic, who missed the last game due to suspension.
Arsenal v Chelsea day! 🤩
COME ON YOU BLUES! 💙 #ARSCHE
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 29, 2019
Lampard had set his team up with a three-man backline in the last two matches against Tottenham and Southampton, but could decide to mirror Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 on Sunday. That could see Fikayo Tomori drop out of the starting XI, with Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma lining up as the two centre-backs in front of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
While Alonso is expected to be available for the contest, the Spaniard is unlikely to make it to the lineup, meaning Emerson Palmieri ought to continue on the left side of the defence, with captain Cesar Azpilicueta starting at right-back against Arsenal.
Kovacic’s return comes as a boost for Chelsea and the Croat is expected to walk right back into the starting XI. He could replace Jorginho in the side, with N’Golo Kante likely to be retained in the Blues’ double pivot in the middle of the park.
Mason Mount, who did not start the Southampton game, is in line to return to the side, slotting in as Chelsea’s No. 10 on Sunday. The Englishman will be flanked by Brazilian winger Willian on one side and Christian Pulisic on the other, with the USMNT international set to replace Callum Hudson-Odoi, who started the last game.
There has been intense speculation surrounding the future of former Arsenal superstar Olivier Giroud, who has struggled for game time under Lampard this season.
Addressing the rumours, Lampard said, “It’s still the same, he’s part of our squad and we’ll see when the window opens if anything happens. I know he’s commented this week but as I’ve said before, his professionalism and how he’s trained has been spot-on for me.”
“It’s purely been at times over the course of the season so far my selections and a lot of that has probably been Tammy’s form – he’s been one of the outstanding strikers in the Premier League in my opinion. That’s the way it’s been so when January comes, then we can officially start talking about it more.”
There will be no start for Giroud against his former club, with Tammy Abraham likely to continue as the lone striker for Chelsea when they face Arsenal.
Chelsea Predicted XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Emerson; Kante, Kovacic; Willian, Mount, Pulisic; Abraham