Chelsea Predicted XI vs Zenit: £50m man makes first start of the season as 21-year-old returns

Chelsea begin their defence of the Champions League trophy against Zenit tomorrow evening at Stamford Bridge.

Despite playing in familiar surroundings, there will be an unaccustomed feel to this particular tie.

Thomas Tuchel has never previously managed Chelsea in a European group stage game, having taken over from Frank Lampard in the knockout rounds earlier this year.

Photo by Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images

It is also a first in terms of facing Zenit, the Russian side having never previously contested Chelsea in competitive action.

Not to drift too far away from home comforts, the Blues boss is likely to make his customary handful of changes for the match.

Here is our predicted XI for Tuesday’s tie:


Tuchel put out something of a reshuffled pack for Saturday’s Premier League visit of Aston Villa.

Expect a more usual look to the back-line, beginning with Edouard Mendy’s mighty presence in goal.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen are likely to be recalled, having both started as substitutes on the weekend.  

Antonio Rudiger does keep his place, whilst Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah drop out.


Although still serving a domestic suspension, Reece James is eligible for the European excursion.

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Anticipate the 21-year-old to reclaim his right-wing back slot or swap roles with Azpilicueta.

On the opposite flank, another man returning from an absence, but this one much lengthier than James’.

Ben Chilwell is yet to play a minute of football for club or country this campaign, limited by the resurgence of Marcos Alonso.

The £50m (Sky Sports) Lampard signing needs to grab the opportunities with both hands when they are thrown his way.

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

In between the English pair, a traditional combination of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.


Chelsea’s front line already feels a lot less full without Romelu Lukaku in attendance.

They will have to cope without the Belgian, to start with, as Tuchel chops and changes his attack.

Only Hakim Ziyech stays put from the Villa victory, as Mason Mount and Timo Werner take the slots of Lukaku and Kai Havertz.

Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Werner through the middle? He’s done it before, admittedly not as efficiently as the Blues new no.9.  

Chelsea Predicted XI vs Zenit: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Werner, Ziyech

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.