Chelsea would be gunning for the perfect Group Stage campaign in UEFA Europa League as they travel to face Vidi FC on Thursday.
Vidi FC are fighting for second spot in Group L of the UEFA Europa League, with the club currently tied on points and goal difference with second-placed BATE Borisov, but behind in terms of the head-to-head results. Vidi FC would need a win or a point and hope BATE Borisov are unable to match their result on Thursday, if the home side is to qualify for the knockout phase.
For Chelsea, it is smooth sailing at the top. Five wins out of five, despite a couple of nervy performances, have seen the Blues come close to registering a perfect Group Stage in the UEFA Europa League. All that remains is a win over Vidi FC on Thursday. But, Chelsea have more pressing matters, such as the match at Brighton on Sunday.
With top place secured already in Group L, Maurizio Sarri is likely to rest most of his key players, if not all, for the Premier League fixture this weekend against Brighton. Vidi FC would hope that is the case and would take heart from the fact that they restricted Chelsea to just one goal during their trip to Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
We take a closer look at the two squads now.
Team News & Tactics
With no players injured or unavailable and Vidi FC likely to go for a win against Chelsea on Thursday, Marko Nikolic will go with his strongest eleven players.
Adam Kovacsik should be in goal, despite many tipping the more experienced Tomas Tujvel to replace him. The back four picks itself, with the likes of Attila Fiola, Vinicius, Roland Juhasz and Stopira the usual suspects in defence.
Nikolic has established his tactical setup in a 4-3-2-1 formation and we should see Vidi FC’s players being deployed in the same formation on Thursday. Anel Hadzic and Loic Nego should retain their spots in midfield from the 2-0 defeat to Ujpest recently.
But, Mate Patkai could be replaced by Boban Nikolov. The two positions behind the lone forward is almost locked with Szabolcs Huszti and Georgi Milanov, key players within the Vidi FC tactical setup. The forward line will be led by Marko Scepovic, who has managed to make the position his own, despite a fair competition for the aforementioned place.
Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Kovacsik; Fiola, Vinicius, Juhasz, Stopira; Nego, Hadzic, Nikolov; Milanov, Huszti; Scepovic
Mateo Kovacic, Victor Moses and Gary Cahill are out of reckoning for the match against Vidi FC, which should see a fair bit of fringe and youth stars being afforded a run out. Willy Caballero should command the Chelsea goal, with the usual Europa League back four comprising of Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen and Emerson Palmieri.
However, with Cahill injured, we could see the slot go to enterprising young talent Ethan Ampadu. In midfield, Cesc Fabregas will reprise the Jorginho role, with Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for company.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is tipped to start on the left wing as a replacement for Eden Hazard, who has been rested. The right flank should be filled up by Willian. As far as the forward line is concerned, Olivier Giroud could be handed another opportunity to show what he can do, especially with Alvaro Morata starting to impress.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Caballero; Zappacosta, Ampadu, Christensen, Emerson; Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hudson-Odoi
1. Chelsea have conceded just one goal in the Europa League Group Stage so far this season.
2. Chelsea have failed to score more than 1 goal in four of their last seven matches in all competitions.
3. Chelsea and Vidi FC come into the match on the back of an identical record in their last five matches in all competitions (3W 2L).
4. Chelsea have used 22 players in the UEFA Europa League so far this season, with Willy Caballero set to become player number 23.
5. Despite struggling in the Premier League, Olivier Giroud has three goals against his name in the Europa League in just 264 minutes of football.
Player to Watch
The Welsh youngster is likely to start in place of the injured Gary Cahill at the back. While Wales have been using the starlet in midfield as well, Ampadu did impress in the academy from the centre-back position and could make a case for more minutes going forward with a matured performance against Vidi FC, especially with the Hungarian giants likely to push for a win.
Ampadu has already braved the international stage and it could be about time to start laying his marker down within the Chelsea setup.
Vidi FC 1-1 Chelsea
if Maurizio Sarri does put out a lineup as mentioned above, Chelsea will find it a bit tough to find some momentum or rhythm, despite coming in hot on the back of handing Manchester City their first league defeat of the season. Maurizio Sarri will likely look at it as an opportunity to evaluate the fringe players, who will be keen to impress the manager on Thursday.
With no real pressure on Chelsea and their players, we could see them play freely. Vidi FC, on the other hand, will be desperate for a win and could end up creating more space for Chelsea to exploit or get caught on the counter. We expect the match to be played out in a fashion quite similar to their previous meeting.
But, this time, we tip Vidi FC to snatch a goal and perhaps a point against what is going to be a second-string Chelsea lineup.