Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is expected to field his strongest possible line-up, with a few possible little tweaks, for the away fixture at Aston Villa on Sunday
It is going to be a decisive 90 minutes for Chelsea — no two ways about it.
Except for serious injury risks, Tuchel will have very little reason to rest any key player in such an important game.
Therefore, we will likely see the strongest Chelsea line-up at Villa Park. But how does their strongest line-up even look like?
For some positions, it is quite obvious. Edouard Mendy in goal, Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva on the left and the middle of the back three, for example.
While for some other spots, it is not as clear, particularly in the front three.
Reece James potentially keeps his spot in back three
The decision on the right centre-back spot should be interesting.
James was deployed in that position in the two encounters against Leicester City to deal with Jamie Vardy’s pace and did incredibly well.
Villa might have a similar threat in Jack Grealish who seems to be close to full fitness.
According to Opta (via Whoscored), Villa have been very reliant on the left side of the pitch offensively, with 44 percent (most in the league) of their attacking actions coming from the left.
That is hardly a surprise given that is where Grealish usually operates in.
Tuchel might want James in that right centre-back role once again to defend against Grealish and possibly help deal with Ollie Watkins as well.
Cesar Azpilicueta is still quite good in one-on-one situations, but his age appears to be catching up with him in terms of pace.
Kante will likely be dropped due to injury risks
In midfield, Tuchel will be very cautious about N’Golo Kante’s fitness situation.
The midfielder had to pull out early due to a tight hamstring during the win over Leicester. Although, Tuchel confirmed that it was not an injury.
Fortunately, Mateo Kovacic is back in the team and might start alongside Jorginho.
Kante should at least be on the bench and be ready to come on if Chelsea have to defend a one-goal lead, which they often do.
Havertz back leading the line
For the three attacking roles, Mason Mount seems to be the only guaranteed starter.
Tuchel would like to fill the other two spots with his most in-form attackers, but his options; Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and even Callum Hudson-Odoi, have been rather inconsistent lately.
Villa do not really have any problem dealing with counter-attacks, therefore Havertz who offers all-round threats seems to be the best option for the central forward role.
While for the remaining spot, it is about whether Tuchel wants Werner’s pace, Pulisic or Hudson-Odoi’s dribbling, or Ziyech’s vision.
Unfortunately for Pulisic and the other two, Werner’s constant runs in behind which help stretch the opposition defence seem to be one of Chelsea’s most important weapons, despite the frustrating offside issues.
Predicted Chelsea 3-4-3 line-up vs Aston Villa
James – Silva – Rudiger
Azpilicueta – Kovacic – Jorginho – Chilwell
Mount – Havertz – Werner