Predicted Chelsea Lineup| Silva Returns| Jorginho Decision| And More
Chelsea can take a big step towards qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage if they can overcome AC Milan this evening at San Siro
Graham Potter needed a big win as Chelsea head coach – and it came in emphatic fashion last week as the Blues overcame AC Milan at Stamford Bridge. Yet tonight, Potter’s side could go one better and defeat the Rossoneri at San Siro to put qualification to the Champions League knockout stage firmly in their own hands.
“That’s our challenge, that’s what we have to try to do,” Potter said ahead of the contest. “It is an incredible place here, and it will be a completely different game [to last week]. AC Milan will try to use the home advantage as we did. It is two good teams, two evenly-matched teams. So it will be a fantastic game, and I’m looking forward to it.”
In last Wednesday’s 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea head coach set his side up in a fluid 3-4-3 shape. It worked to excellent effect, with Reece James, in particular, dominating the right flank. The academy graduate registered a goal and assist and also did a superb job on Rafael Leao.
Potter was asked yesterday if he would use the same system. Understandably, he didn’t give anything away. “I won’t tell you about how we’re going to line up! You can wait for that,” he said. “But we’re happy with the options that we have that’s for sure. We’re expecting a really tough game, AC Milan have a lot of good players and a strong team.”
The starting XI is expected to contain many of the players who began last week’s win. Kepa Arrizabalaga has been the goalkeeper selected for each one of Potter’s games in charge thus far and is set to keep his place at San Siro. Edouard Mendy, Chelsea’s number-one stopper for the past two years, will be on the bench.
With Wesley Fofana ruled out with a knee injury sustained a week ago, Trevoh Chalobah is the clear choice to begin on the right of a back three. Thiago Silva, who spent three years as an AC Milan player earlier in his career, can occupy his usual spot in the centre, with Kalidou Koulibaly continuing on the left.
James will start at wing-back if Potter settles upon a back three. Yet the England international may have a trickier evening with rampaging and rapid full-back Theo Hernandez expected to return for Milan following an injury. He missed the defeat at Stamford Bridge.
On the opposite flank, Potter has to choose between Marc Cucurella and Ben Chilwell. It may be the latter that gets the nod, given Chilwell didn’t play against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend and that Cucurella was suffering from a throat illness last week.
Jorginho started last time out in midfield, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Italian step out the side and Potter go to the duo of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic. The former produced a fine display in the match at Stamford Bridge and has performed well this season.
It’s taken a few weeks for Mason Mount to find his form, but the academy graduate was good at the weekend and created two goals. That should see him get the nod to start on the right of an attack that should see Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang return.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Kepa; Chalobah, Silva, Koulibaly; James, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Aubameyang, Sterling