Hakim Ziyech and N’Golo Kante will start in a much-changed side when Chelsea take on Barnsley in the FA Cup fifth round on Thursday.
Chelsea will be hoping to book their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals when they lock horns with Barnsley at the Oakwell Stadium on Thursday night. And, Thomas Tuchel has a fresh injury concern to contend with ahead of his side’s latest fixture.
Thiago Silva was already recuperating from a thigh injury he picked up in a recent game against Tottenham Hotspur. The veteran Brazilian defender has been joined on the sidelines by Timo Werner, although the German international is only a minor issue and should be back for the next game.
Meanwhile, Tuchel confirmed two of the starters during his pre-match press conference, revealing that Hakim Ziyech and N’Golo Kante will start in a heavily rotated side. The Chelsea manager said, “There’s a high possibility that we will see a lot of changes. This is the third away game in a row for us, so we don’t want to lose awareness or attention to detail and I think this is a good chance for some changes.”
“N’Golo will start tomorrow and I am so happy to have him back again. We put him on the pitch against Tottenham and he helped everybody on the pitch, which is what he does. Hakim is another one who hopefully tomorrow we will see the best of him. We count on Hakim to do something different, no doubt about that. He has lots of quality and we count on him like everyone else, no doubt about that.”
Tuchel also confirmed in an interview with the Chelsea media that Kepa Arrizabalaga will come in for Edouard Mendy in goal. The Chelsea boss revealed, “Kepa will start the game. He will get the chance and I hope he can show what he shows in training.”
In front of Kepa, Chelsea should once again line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Kurt Zouma likely to start, allowing captain Cesar Azpilicueta a rest. Zouma will join Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger in the back three, with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Emerson Palmieri expected to be afforded a chance in the wing-back slots.
Kante, as iterated earlier is a certainty in midfield and he should be joined by Billy Gilmour in the double pivot, with Tuchel hinting at a possible start. One player who has not travelled to Barnsley, though, is Timo Werner, after he suffered a dead leg last time out against Sheffield United.
“It’s still painful with contact so we took him out of the training when we did some small-sided games. We didn’t risk it and we will not risk it against Barnsley.” Werner ought to be replaced by Ziyech, with Christian Pulisic likely to start in place of Mason Mount, who is due a breather. Finally, Tammy Abraham will lead the line for an ever-improving Chelsea side against Barnsley.
Chelsea Predicted XI: Kepa; Zouma, Christensen, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi, Gilmour, Kante, Emerson; Ziyech, Pulisic; Abraham