Chelsea take on Real Madrid this evening in a mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in an attempt to salvage their dismally disappointing season.
Club legend and former boss Frank Lampard was appointed as caretaker manager last week to boost morale, but the 44-year-old lost the opening match of his second spell at the helm with an abject 1-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Reputable journalist Simon Johnson has confirmed that injured stars Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount, and Cesar Azpilicueta have all travelled to central Spain as part of the squad.
After the result at the weekend in the Midlands, which condemned Chelsea to a fifth defeat in their last 10 games and slipping to 11th in the league standings, Lampard is likely to name a rotated lineup that could involve a formation change.
Here’s how the Chelsea starting XI could look when they take on the reigning European Champions tonight.
How could Chelsea line up against Real Madrid?
Kepa Arrizabalaga is set to retain his place in goal as Edouard Mendy still hasn’t featured for the West London outfit since before the World Cup.
Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Silva will make up the back three in a change of defensive shape from the recent league defeat. Fofana should start after impressing since returning from injury. Koulibaly is perhaps fortunate but Benoit Badiashile is not registered with the Champions League squad and the Senegalese is a better option than £35m-rated Marc Cucurella as the Blues will need his physicality to combat Karim Benzema.
However, the main Chelsea defence change and something that could be a major boost to Lampard’s stuttering side is the potential return of Silva, whose experience and leadership will be of insurmountable importance if the Blues are going to stand any chance of progressing.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell will operate in their customary wing-back positions and will no doubt be deployed as high and wide as possible to provide Chelsea with penetrative width.
Enzo Fernadez will also keep his place and the World Cup-winning Argentine said the team is “not afraid” ahead of a match against of one the favourites for the competition.
The 22-year-old will be partnered by the effervescent N’Golo Kante, who has developed a formidable reputation in this competition and was labelled as a “world-class player” by former teammate Cesc Fabregas. The Frenchman will replace Mateo Kovacic, whilst Conor Gallagher misses out due to the change in formation.
Finally, in the attack, the inconsistent Kai Havertz will drop to the bench after his latest domestic showing lacked any conviction, which should allow Mount to be reinstated into the lineup in the fourth and final change from the weekend.. Raheem Sterling and Joao Felix will start again in what could be an interchangeable and fluid front three.
Predicted Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Kepa; Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly; James, Fernandez, Kante, Chillwell; Mount, Sterling, Felix