Chelsea will look to make it three wins out of three as they host BATE Borisov on Thursday in a highly-anticipated Europa League clash.
Chelsea are undefeated in the league and have carried over their form into the Europa League. But, Maurizio Sarri will be worried by the lack of cutting edge in the Blues’ recent games. Even in the Europa League, their two wins have been far from convincing, with a pair of 1-0 scorelines to show for their efforts.
BATE Borisov, on the other hand, were handed a shock, albeit thumping defeat at home by PAOK in their last Europa League game. The Belarusian giants have cut it close in the domestic league as well, with a defeat and close shaves in their last three matches.
Two teams who are used to plying their trade in the Champions League in recent times but find themselves in the Europa League for the 2018-19 campaign, Chelsea and BATE Borisov will both be looking to secure a win and move closer to a passage into the knockout phase.
We take a closer look at the two teams.
Team News & Tactics
Ethan Ampadu, Isaiah Brown and Callum Hudson-Odoi remain on the sidelines. But, the young trio have been joined by talisman Eden Hazard. The Belgian suffered a back injury, which was revealed in the aftermath of the 2-2 draw against Manchester United over the weekend.
Maurizio Sarri is expected to name a starting eleven similar to the one that secured a narrow 1-0 win over Vidi FC. The entire back four should change, with Davide Zappacosta, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Emerson Palmieri coming in.
In midfield, Jorginho will be given a rest, something Sarri has confirmed. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Cesc Fabregas and Mateo Kovacic should all start in midfield. Willian and Pedro are likely to be deployed on the wings, especially with Hazard and Hudson-Odoi out injured.
Victor Moses could be an option but Sarri is likely to go for the first-choice wingers. Alvaro Morata failed to score against Manchester United and could lose his spot to Olivier Giroud.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Zappacosta, Cahill, Christensen, Emerson; Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Kovacic; Pedro, Giroud, Willian
Aliaksei Baga should field the 4-1-4-1 formation, despite losing heavily against PAOK in their last Europa League tie. There should be just one change to the back four that took the field against PAOK, with Denis Polyakov shifting to the right to take the place of Aleksey Rios, who will drop to the bench to make way for Nemanja Milunovic.
The midfield should stay the same, with Evgeni Yablonski taking a more restrictive role in the middle of the park, with a four-man support ahead of him.
22-year-old Jasse Tuominen should start upfront for BATE Borisov and the youngster will be looking to do something Vidi FC and PAOK failed.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Scherbitskiy; Polyakov, Milunovic, Filipenko, Volodzko; Yablonski; Ivanic, Dragun, Baga, Stasevich; Tuominen
1. Chelsea are undefeated in the 12 matches they have played so far this season in all competitions.
2. BATE Borisov have incurred three red cards in their last six matches in all competitions.
3. BATE Borisov have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 4 matches in all competitions.
4. BATE Borisov have played just one European fixture on English soil, a Europa League game against Everton that yielded a 1-0 win for the Belarusian outfit.
5. Chelsea have kept six clean sheets so far this season in 12 matches in all competitions, averaging 1 clean sheet every two matches.
Player to Watch
With Eden Hazard injured, Pedro is likely to come into the starting lineup for the next batch of games. The Spaniard was the preferred winger over Willian on the other end and will be hoping to regain his automatic spot in the starting eleven. His industry and work-rate has to improve in the given time.
Come to the time when Eden Hazard does return, Pedro should have given a headache to Maurizio Sarri as far as the other spot in attack is concerned. And it all starts against BATE Borisov on Thursday.
Chelsea 2-2 BATE Borisov
BATE Borisov might not be in a positive vein of form. But, Chelsea have secured wins on unconvincing performances, something which is bound to give way at some point in the season. With Maurizio Sarri set to rest some key players and Eden Hazard injured, expect the Belarusian outfit to fancy their chances.
Olivier Giroud would have been unhappy at being left out of the starting eleven against Manchester United over the weekend and should make a strong point to become the first-choice striker again with a good showing in the Europa League.
We expect a scoring draw, with BATE Borisov the first club in the Europa League this season to break through the Chelsea defence.