Chelsea will be looking to continue their godly 2018-19 form as they travel to face BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League in a Group L encounter.
BATE Borisov are in a pickle of sorts, as far as their hopes of getting through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League is concerned. After a winning start to their adventures in Group L, the Belarusian giants have lost the next two games and are now rock bottom of their group, level on points with PAOK and Vidi FC.
Chelsea, on the other hand, could secure not just passage but top spot in Group L with a win on Thursday. Maurizio Sarri seems to have a magical wand at his disposal, judging by the start he has had to his managerial stint at Chelsea. The manager will also have one eye on their Sunday fixture against Everton in a bid to keep their league form going.
Chelsea earned a 3-1 win over BATE Borisov in the recently played fixture at Stamford Bridge. Ahead of the reverse fixture, we take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Vladislav Malkevic and Vladislav Mukhamedov are sidelined for the fixture. Apart from that, we should see BATE Borisov retain their entire back four. Aleksey Rios, Aleksandar Filipovic, Egor Filipenko and Maksim Volodjko will make up the defence.
Interestingly, we should expect BATE Borisov to be more expressive than they were at Stamford Bridge. Thus, we should see the home side deploy a 4-3-3 formation. Stanislav Dragun should be at the heart of the midfield, with the experienced Aleksandr Hleb on the left. Dmitri Baga should complete the midfield three.
Igor Stasevich has been the most creative outlet so far for BATE Borisov and should start on the left side of the attacking three. Maksim Skavysh should be stationed on the right, with Nikolai Signevich likely to lead the attack for the Belarusian side. Jasse Tuominen will have to contend with a spot on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Scherbitskiy; Rios, Filipovic, Filipenko, Volodjko; Baga, Dragun, Hleb; Skavysh, Signevich, Stasevich
Maurizio Sarri will be looking to rest key players for the weekend matchup against Everton. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was the hero last time out against BATE Borisov and deserves to start, albeit in his natural position in midfield. Ethan Ampadu remains sidelined but Olivier Giroud is expected to return to action on Thursday.
David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata have been rested by Sarri. The first three names mean the back four should comprise of Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Emerson Palmieri, with Davide Zappacosta rounding out the defence.
Cesc Fabregas is down with fever and is unlikely to feature against BATE Borisov. Jorginho should be the obvious choice, especially with Ampadu doubtful as well. On the flip side, we could see Maurizio Sarri go with an unconventional trio of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante in midfield, something that will not be according to his philosophy.
Olivier Giroud should command the forward spot, with Pedro guaranteed to start after his impressive performances recently. The other spot should go to Willian, with Eden Hazard likely to come on to get some minutes under his belt before the tie against Everton.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Caballero; Zappacosta, Cahill, Christensen, Emerson; Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Kovacic; Pedro, Giroud, Willian
1. BATE Borisov have lost four of their five Europa League meetings against English opposition.
2. Chelsea have attempted the most shots in the Europa League thus far (73) while conceding the least in the competition (15).
3. Chelsea have scored three goals or more in five of their last six matches in all competitions.
4. Maurizio Sarri has now gone his first 16 games in-charge of Chelsea undefeated.
Player to Watch
Now that Alvaro Morata is back among the goals, the ball is in Olivier Giroud’s court. The Frenchman needs to respond with goals of his own to continue in the competition to be the first-choice at Chelsea. Giroud missed a couple of fixtures due to fitness issues but will glad to be back.
With no Morata in the travelling squad, Giroud is destined to start. The Frenchman needs a prolific performance on Thursday.
BATE Borisov 1-1 Chelsea
Away ties are always tricky in European competitions, as was recently proven by Liverpool, who suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of FK Crvena Zvezda in the Champions League. Chelsea, however, are equipped sufficiently, it seems, and given their points tally, Sarri will not be too bothered by the veracity of the result on Thursday.
An alternative point of view would be the fact that Chelsea are on a neat run in the 2018-19 campaign so far and the manager would love for his side to maintain their undefeated status at the very least. Thursday will be trickier than their matchup at Stamford Bridge. But, we expect Chelsea to come out retaining their undefeated status. A 1-1 draw is what we are going with.