Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge for the first time in over three months to face reigning champions Manchester City on Thursday night.
Champions League qualification has yet to be secured for Frank Lampard’s side and a potential defeat to the Citizens could see the top-four race open up, with Manchester United, Wolves and Tottenham all competing with the Blues for that much-coveted fourth-place spot (or fifth-place, should Manchester City fail in their appeal to have their UEFA competition ban revoked)
They initially endured a shaky return to football, going down 1-0 to Aston Villa in the first-half, showing signs of the inconsistency that has marked Lampard’s first season in charge. Chelsea came back in the second-half, however, with Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic both scoring within the space of two minutes.
Here’s the starting line-up Lampard should pick ahead of their clash with Manchester City.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (GK) – Though the Spaniard’s future has been thrown into doubt, Kepa is still Lampard’s first-choice shot-stopper and a notch above the ageing Willy Cabellero – who the 42-year-old tactician only preferred for the games against Leicester, Manchester United, Tottenham and Bournemouth.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RB) – The captain has been the Blues’ preferred right-back for much of the season – despite the emergence of Reece James – and bagged two assists in their defeat of Aston Villa on Sunday.
Kurt Zouma (CB) – Lampard preferred Andreas Christensen over Zouma for the match on Sunday but could opt to start the Frenchman over Christensen after the latter’s poor performance against Aston Villa.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) – The German has been a regular feature in the Chelsea side ever since his return from a groin injury in December. He has proven an unreliable defender at times but is still one of the best at the club, which should say something about the Blues’ defence.
Marcos Alonso (LB) – Links with Leicester’s Ben Chilwell means that the Spaniard’s days in west London could be numbered, though he should suffice at left-back for now. Known better for scoring goals than being able to defend, Alonso is still a better option on the left than Emerson Palmieri.
Jorginho (DM) – The Brazilian looks set to play his first game for Chelsea in nearly four-months as he is now available for selection following his suspension. He has been one of the Blues’ standout players this season, thanks to his accurate passing and penalty-taking skills.
N’Golo Kante (CM) – One of the best central midfielders in the world, there were initially concerns that the Frenchman would miss the remainder of the season following his refusal to return to training amid coronavirus fears. He came back however, and played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea’s win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – Kovacic has been one of Chelsea’s better players this season, establishing himself as one of the most consistent midfielders in the league. He possesses the highest pass success rate for a Blues midfielder, with an astounding 89.7%.
Willian (RW) – The Brazilian has (rightfully) been the subject of criticism from Chelsea fans over the last couple of seasons, but until Hakim Ziyech arrives, he is still their best option on the right-wing. He has the joint-highest number of assists for the Blues this season, with six.
Tammy Abraham (ST) – Chelsea’s top-scorer this season, the young striker has had a good, if slightly inconsistent, first season with the Blues’ first team. Olivier Giroud scored against Aston Villa on Sunday, but Abraham represents a better option up-front if Chelsea are to beat Manchester City.
Christian Pulisic (LW) – Due to injuries and being out of favour at the start of the season, the 21-year-old has only started 40% of Chelsea’s games this season, but has been very impressive nevertheless. He has scored seven goals and has made six assists in his debut campaign at Stamford Bridge.