Wednesday night’s Champions League clash sees Chelsea host Austrian outfit RB Salzburg at Stamford Bridge in Graham Potter’s first game in charge of the Blues and his first in the Champions League.
Since then, the Blues have not played a game due to due to the Premier League’s decision to call off the weekend fixture schedule as a mark of respect following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
It means that Potter has had several days to train the Chelsea first team, but it could mean that match sharpness at this level may be lacking slightly.
However, he will see no reason why a squad who are unbeaten in their last six home games cannot muster a win tonight.
Taking to his first pre-match press conference as Chelsea manager, Potter issued an injury update ahead of the Champions League clash.
He told reporters (via football.london): “Eddie [Mendy] will miss the game, so will NG [Kante]. Apart from that everybody is fit. Eddie has responded well, but his knee has bothered him for a bit. I don’t think it’ll be long, but we need to give him some time.”
According to another piece from football.london, Mendy was struggling to be fit for Chelsea’s proposed clash against Fulham at Craven Cottage last Saturday prior to the cancellation of the weekend’s fixtures. The 30-year-old has been undergoing treatment during the opening days of Potter’s reign at Stamford Bridge and did not feature in the first-team training session on Tuesday morning.
Kante was also mentioned as an absentee for this match, having not featured for the Blues since mid-August after sustaining a hamstring injury against Tottenham. The 31-year-old is not expected to return until after the international break.
Having suffered defeat in their group stage opener last time out, and now under new management, the Blues will be looking for nothing but three points, in what could prove to be a reset for the squad as a whole.
Chelsea have failed to keep a clean sheet across their last six matches, so Potter’s first port of call could be to solidify the team defensively – an area of expertise at Brighton, whom he left with a record of just 0.8 goals conceded per match, the joint-second best rate in the league.
As such, we would expect Potter to set up his team in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with high functioning wing-backs to nullify Salzburg’s counterattacking efforts.
Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly,
James, Mount, Jorginho, Cucurella,
Our predicted line-up sees Chelsea make three changes from the side which lost to Dinamo Zagreb last time out.
Cesar Azpilicueta could be replaced by a quicker asset in Wesley Fofana, who will allow the team to deploy a high line with greater confidence.
Mateo Kovacic loses out to Jorginho, who will provide greater defensive stability in the middle of the park (his interception average betters the Croatian’s), allowing central midfield partner Mason Mount to concentrate on the creative shift in the engine room.
Finally, Ben Chilwell makes way for Potter’s £175k-per-week former Brighton gem Marc Cucurella, who will look to provide more of an attacking threat in the half-space, rather than out wide.
Potter may feel that he has something to prove tonight, and he will look to begin his reign with a conclusive win.