?Chelsea welcome Dynamo Kiev to Stamford Bridge on Thursday night in their round of 16 first leg Europa League tie.
After comfortably beating Malmo 5-1 on aggregate in the previous round, Chelsea now face Kiev, who come into the tie after arguably causing an upset when they knocked out Greek giants Olympiakos.
Maurizio Sarri has overcome a whirlwind of a month in February which involved a heavy 6-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League, being knocked out by Manchester United in the FA Cup and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to be subbed off in the EFL Cup final. The Italian manager must now focus on the Europa League which could guarantee Champions League football next season if the Blues win it.
Here’s a look at how they could lineup.
1. Goalkeeper & Defenders
Kepa Arrizabalaga (GK) – The world’s most expensive goalkeeper was all over the headlines after his antics in the EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City. However, he was restored the lineup against Fulham and made four top saves to ensure Chelsea got the three points.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RB) – The Spaniard has effectively been Chelsea’s captain this season with Gary Cahill playing almost no part in their season. The reliable defender has played the most minutes for Chelsea this season and looks set to command the defence on Thursday.
David Luiz (CB) – The former PSG defender was rested against Fulham on Saturday. This means he will be fresh to return to the side as Sarri will hope to keep a clean sheet and not give an away goal to their opponents.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) – Perhaps gone under the radar this season, the German international has looked assured in his second season with the Blues, adapting well to Premier League football.
Marcos Alonso (LB) – Left out of the squad in the win against Fulham, the Spanish left back has been criticised in moments this season. However, if fit it looks as though Sarri will recall Alonso in the hope that he can build on his solid performance against Tottenham.
Jorginho (CM) – Brought in by Sarri for a fee rising above £50m, the former Napoli midfielder has also received criticism for his lack of ambition in his passing. However, the Italian did score against Fulham and has been an assured starter in midfield for Chelsea this season.
N’Golo Kante (CM) – A Premier League winner with both Leicester City and Chelsea, the Frenchman’s role has been the main cause for debate about Sarri’s style of football. Pushed into a more advance role this season, Kante looks set to continue in his new position on Thursday.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – Signed in the summer on loan from Spanish giants Real Madrid, the World Cup finalist has been continuously rotated by Maurizio Sarri with fellow midfielder Ross Barkley. As the England midfielder started against Fulham, it seems likely that Kovacic will come into the starting lineup against Kiev.
Pedro (RW)- The ex-Barcelona winger scored a big goal for the Blues against Tottenham a week ago. Having played just 15 minutes in the win against Fulham, Pedro looks set to return to the starting lineup and boost Chelsea’s attacking threat.
Olivier Giroud (ST)- Despite being a World Cup winner with France in the summer, it looks like Giroud will face a lot of time on the bench due to Chelsea’s loan signing of Gonzalo Higuian in January. However, Sarri has given him a lot of minutes in the Europa League resulting in Giroud’s impressive tally of six goals in the competition, one behind top scorer Munas Dabbur.
Willian (LW)- Chelsea are clear favourites to beat Dynamo Kiev comfortably which could allow Maurizio Sarri to rest star man Eden Hazard. This will provide Brazilian winger Willian the opportunity to complete Chelsea’s front three on Thursday and give Chelsea a lead to take to Ukraine in the second leg.