Chelsea may still have another day to wait before they return to the hallowed turf at Stamford Bridge but by this stage Graham Potter will likely have a team in mind. The Blues boss has had a number of weeks to work with some of his squad, although the group has changed over time as Chelsea welcomed back their World Cup Stars.
Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech are already out of contention having not trained in the build up to the game with their international commitments ending just over one week ago as Croatia and Morocco faced off in a play-off for third place.
In addition, Potter is still without a number of injured players, perhaps most frustratingly Armando Broja, who was ruled out for the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in a friendly against Aston Villa, and Wesley Fofana who suffered a setback in a behind-closed-doors friendly versus Brentford. Potter outlined the issues remaining, and confirmed that Reece James managed to complete 65 minutes against the Bees. He said:
“Wesley [Fofana] just had a little setback which can sometimes happen at the very last stage of the rehab. It will be a couple of weeks so he won’t be available for the game. Obviously, Armando [Broja] is a big loss in terms of the time he is out. Reece [James] is back in and completed 65 minutes in the week, still without Ruben [Loftus-Cheek], still without Ben Chilwell, obviously [N’Golo] Kante. [Edouard] Mendy has had a couple of days training with us.”
One of the first things under scrutiny at kick-off in west London will be the formation Potter opts for. The former Brighton coach has utilised a back four in recent weeks and it seems like that could be an option as well as Chelsea’s back three that has become so familiar in recent seasons.
Having recovered from injury it seems Kepa Arrizabalaga will take his place in goal, particularly with Edouard Mendy having only recently returned to action. Trevoh Chalobah seems likely to be one of the first names in defence with a decision to make over the readiness of the likes of Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly following their World Cup campaigns.
Chelsea’s full backs will be an area of intrigue, with a decision to make on whether James is capable of starting a Premier League match, while Marc Cucurella has the benefit of having being around Potter for longer than most this winter. Lewis Hall may hope to push him for a place or expect to line up alongside him yet.
The 18-year-old star could also provide an option in midfield with the absences of Ruben Loftus- Cheek and Kovacic, but will face competition from Denis Zakaria and Conor Gallagher, with Jorginho set to start in the centre of the pitch. Hall’s versatility could perhaps even see Potter opt for a hybrid between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3, if the development squad ace takes on a similar role to what Loftus-Cheek has in the past.
Even without Broja, there will be competition in the frontline. Kai Havertz netted a hat-trick against Brentford last week, while Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling will be looking to bounce back from World Cup disappointment and Christian Pulisic will be hoping to build on some good form in Qatar. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had more time to work under Potter’s influence and will hope to better his goalscoring form from before the break, while Carney Chukwuemeka’s return to training will see him hoping to be involved.
Scott’s XI: Kepa, James, Chalobah, Silva, Cucurella; Gallagher, Jorginho, Hall; Mount, Aubameyang, Sterling.
Bobby’s XI: Kepa; Chalobah, Silva, Koulibaly; James, Jorginho, Gallagher, Hall; Havertz, Mount, Aubameyang