Chelsea will be aiming to make it through to the Round of 16 stage of the UEFA Europa League, when they host Swedish outfit Malmo on Thursday night.

Following their disappointing exit from the FA Cup on Monday night, Chelsea will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in the UEFA Europa League, when they face off against Malmo FF in the second leg of their Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

Chelsea come into the game with an advantage, having beaten the Swedish outfit 1-2 in the first leg of the contest last week, courtesy goals from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud. However, they will be low on confidence after they were handed a 2-0 loss at home by Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday night.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri finds himself under increasing pressure after the recent run of poor form. With Zinedine Zidane constantly being linked with the job, the former Napoli boss will need to ensure that his team return to winning ways as a defeat could very well prove to be the final nail in the coffin for him.

The game against Chelsea last week was Malmo’s first since December, with the Swedish league scheduled to begin in March. Uwe Rosler’s men gave a good account of themselves against their illustrious opponents, following which they defeated Degerfors 3-2 in the group stage of the Swedish Cup.

Malmo will come to Stamford Bridge with an eye on causing a major upset and given Chelsea’s vulnerability in recent matches, they would back themselves to produce a shock outcome on Thursday night.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

Chelsea will be without the services of first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for the European encounter due to a hamstring injury, while Davide Zappacosta and Pedro are also major doubts with illness and stomach ache respectively. Academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also unlikely to be involved.

With the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City at the weekend it will be interesting to see how Sarri approaches the game against Malmo. There is likely to be some squad rotation for the encounter, with the Italian likely to protect some of his key players for the weekend clash.

Kepa’s injury means Willy Caballero gets the nod in goal for the home team. Cesar Azpilicueta is likely to be retained at right-back, owing to Zappacosta’s fever, while Emerson Palmieri should come into the team at left-back ahead of Marcos Alonso. Andreas Christensen should pair up with David Luiz at the heart of the defence.

Teenager Ethan Ampadu could be in line for another run-out as the deepest lying midfielder for Chelsea against Malmo. N’Golo Kante will continue to provide the forward thrust from the middle of the park, while Ross Barkley could replace Mateo Kovacic in the third midfield slot.

Up ahead, Willian should come in for Pedro on the right flank, while Gonzalo Higuain is also likely to be benched, with Olivier Giroud set to lead the line. Eden Hazard will also drop out to the bench with the weekend game in mind, paving way for Callum Hudson-Odoi to start.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Ampadu, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi

Malmo FF

23-year-old centre-back Franz Brorsson and 30-year-old forward Guillermo Molins have been ruled out of the contest by Malmo manager Uwe Rosler. Arnor Ingvi Traustason is also a doubt to feature for the visitors, as he awaits the birth of his child.

Malmo are unlikely to make many changes to the side that played against Chelsea last time out, with Rosler expected to set his team up with a five-man defensive line. Johan Dahlin will be a busy man between the sticks for the Swedish side and will need all the protection he can get from Lasse Nielsen, Rasmus Bengtsson and Behrang Safari who will line up at the heart of the defence.

Andreas Vindheim and Soren Rieks will take up the full-back slots and will be tasked with providing the width moving forward, although their forward movement is likely to be restricted.

Anders Christiansen, who scored the only goal for Malmo in the last leg, will continue in the middle of the park, along with Fouad Bachirou. Traustason’s unavailability could lead to Oscar Lewicki getting the nod in the midfield. Upfront, captain and seasoned campaigner Markus Rosenberg will pair up with Marcus Antonsson.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Dahlin; Vindheim, Nielsen, Bengtsson, Safari, Rieks; Christiansen, Lewicki, Bachirou; Rosenberg, Antonsson

Key Stats

  • Chelsea have won each of their last six Europa League home games, scoring at least three goals in five of those matches.
  • Swedish clubs haven’t had the best of results facing English teams away from home. They have won just once in their last seven European encounters on the road against English outfits – a 2-1 win for Ostersunds against Arsenal in last season’s Europa League.
  • Chelsea have had more shots (147) and completed over 400 more passes (4642) than any other team in the Europa League this season.
  • Malmo have had the oldest starting XI on average in this season’s UEFA Europa League (29y 353d) among the remaining 32 teams in the competition.
  • Willian has created 22 goalscoring chances for Chelsea in the 2018-19 Europa League, scoring two and assisting three goals; no other Chelsea player has both scored and assisted more than once.

Player to Watch

Callum Hudson-Odoi

A chance to impress? (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

A chance to impress? (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

The teenage sensation was surprisingly left unused on the bench on Monday night, even as Chelsea chased the game against Manchester United. Maurizio Sarri opted to bring on Willian to freshen up his side’s attack and then threw on a defender, Davide Zappacosta, much to the chagrin of the Chelsea supporters, who made sure the manager knew how they felt from the stands.

Hudson-Odoi has made a solid impression each time he has been given a chance, so it does seem quite baffling as to why the Chelsea boss continues to under-utilize him. However, with the cup final on the horizon, Sarri might hand the Englishman a start in order to rest Eden Hazard.

The 18-year-old has scored and assisted a goal apiece in 5 Europa League appearances this season and will look to add to his tally on Thursday night and make a stronger case for increased involvement with the first-team moving forward this season.

Prediction

Chelsea 2-1 Malmo

Chelsea come into the game under intense pressure following their defeat to Manchester United earlier this week. With manager Maurizio Sarri’s job on the line, they need to produce a solid reaction to their meek surrender against the Red Devils.

The looming Carabao Cup final against Manchester City this weekend means Sarri will have to rotate his troops as well, which could complicate things further for the West Londoners.

Malmo did quite well against the Blues last time out and will come into Thursday’s game hoping to inflict further pain on their esteemed opponents. However, despite Chelsea’s latest setback and the possibility of a weakened side taking the field on Thursday, they should have enough quality to see off the Swedes and progress to the next round of the Europa League.

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