£15m man makes first start of 21/22, with nine changes made: Chelsea predicted XI vs Southampton

Thomas Tuchel will have the luxury of resting almost his entire first-choice Chelsea team ahead of tomorrow’s Carabao Cup game against Southampton.

Those players who smashed seven past Norwich City on Saturday certainly deserve a break.

Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

With a trip to Newcastle United in the Premier League on the calendar just days after facing Southampton, managing minutes is a must.

Here is our predicted Chelsea XI to take on the Saints at Stamford Bridge:

Defence

As there is the potential of another penalty shoot-out, Kepa Arrizabalaga earns a rare moment out of Edouard Mendy’s shadow.

Kepa can expect to be protected by the youthful back-three that kept a clean sheet away to Brentford two weeks ago.

Malang Sarr replaces Antonio Rudiger, while Andreas Christensen comes in for Thiago Silva.

Only Trevoh Chalobah keeps his place from the Norwich annihilation.

Midfield

Tuchel can make further wholesale changes to his midfield.

Reece James and Ben Chilwell – both scorers against Norwich – relinquish their wing-back posts so Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso can get a run-out.

Alonso has featured once after Chelsea’s 1-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus last month, as Chilwell continues to reclaim his spot in the squad.

Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Saul Niguez plays for only the fourth time since he joined the Blues on loan from Atletico Madrid on deadline day.

The Spaniard should line up alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek in central midfield, whose last start came at home to Southampton in the league.

Attack

Ross Barkley takes the place of hattrick hero Mason Mount in the front line.

Barkley hasn’t started a match all season, with his total time on the field accumulating to just under an hour of football.

If the £15m (BBC) signing from Everton wants to persuade Chelsea not to sell him in January, he must grab these rare opportunities by the horns.

Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku’s respective injuries mean Tuchel has little choice but to deploy Kai Havertz up front once again.

He and Chalobah are the only two who keep their position from the demolition of Norwich.

Callum Hudson-Odoi is exchanged for Hakim Ziyech.

Chelsea predicted XI vs Southampton: Kepa; Sarr, Christensen, Chalobah; Alonso, Saul, Loftus-Cheek, Azpilicueta; Barkley, Havertz, Ziyech

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"Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produced 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. Nathaniel is a full-time writer for the Chelsea Chronicle, and was formerly their social media man. His footballing career reached the sparkling heights of winning the Under-13s Bloxham Tournament in 2011."