It’s not often that Chelsea has enjoyed visits to the London Stadium. There was a win under Antonio Conte in 2017 and another with Thomas Tuchel at the helm four years later, although the absence of supporters due to the Covid pandemic was perhaps a mitigating factor.
So recent history doesn’t favour Graham Potter as he takes the Blues across London for a game that has to be won if faint hopes of securing a top-four finish are to be kept alive. “David Moyes’ sides are always competitive and organised,” explained the Chelsea head coach at his pre-match press conference.
“Everyone knows what they’re doing, they have some really good players, they attack the spaces well, defend in numbers and defend well, set pieces are strong. So for us, it’s about understanding the environment, understanding the fact it’s a London derby and match whatever intensity is coming at us with our own, start the game well and try to take the three points.”
There remain several players unavailable. Edouard Mendy is sidelined after undergoing surgery on a fractured finger last month while Wesley Fofana continued his recovery from injury this week but isn’t ready to make a return to action. It is the same situation for both Mateo Kovacic and Denis Zakaria.
N’Golo Kante isn’t expected to return until the end of the month – and that is at the earliest – while Christian Pulisic and Armando Broja remain absent. England international Raheem Sterling is a doubt having suffered a kick to his knee in training this week.
In the absence of Mendy, Kepa Arrizabalaga will start once more in goal for the Blues. Potter then has a decision as to how he sets up the defence ahead of the Spaniard. A back three could be considered but the Chelsea head coach has favoured a four-man defence since the World Cup break.
That would ensure Reece James begins at right-back, although he shouldn’t complete 90 minutes with Borussia Dortmund to come in midweek, and the central defence should consist of Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile, who wasn’t registered in the Champions League squad for the knockout stage. Marc Cucurella is likely to continue at left-back.
Club-record signing Enzo Fernandez made his debut against Fulham last week and will start once more, especially given the injuries in midfield. If Potter goes with a double six he will likely select Conor Gallagher, whose energy could prove important in a London derby.
Mason Mount has struggled for form in recent weeks but has continued to start. He is a favourite of Potter and could be used as a more advanced midfielder. Joao Felix, who is back from a three-game suspension, could then begin on the left with Mykhailo Mudryk not match fit and Hakim Ziyech may continue on the right.
Kai Havertz’s performances have dipped in recent weeks – much like Mount – but he may be given another outing as the No. 9. Whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is included in the squad is intriguing, with LAFC in talks over a deal for the former Gabon international.
The match will be screened on BT Sport and fans can watch the game by using a BT Sport monthly pass.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Kepa; James, Silva, Badiashile, Cucurella; Fernandez, Gallagher; Ziyech, Mount, Felix; Havertz