Chelsea can at least temporarily leapfrog Leicester into third place in the Premier League table when they take on rivals Leeds United at Elland Road today (12.30pm kick-off). The Blues are 11 unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel after beating Everton last time out. Express Sport looks at how Chelsea might line up against Leeds with several players in line for a recall in Yorkshire, Tuchel knowing he has a Champions League last 16 second leg on Wednesday to also keep in mind.
Tuchel has made it clear Edouard Mendy, signed in the summer from Rennes, is Chelsea’s No 1 over Kepa Arrizablaga – at least for the rest of this season.
That means the Senegalese shot-stopper keeps hit spot between the sticks having kept 13 clean sheets in 23 Premier League appearances so far this season.
He hasn’t conceded in the league for 336 minutes having kept three shut-outs on the spin and will hope to maintain that record here.
Defence: Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta has been a firm fixture on the right side of a back three under Tuchel and has completed the full 90 minutes in every Premier League and Champions League match of the German’s short tenure.
The Spaniard will be asked to go again but there could be a change alongside him, with Antonio Rudiger coming back into the side.
After being an unused substitute against Everton on Monday, Thiago Silva was poised to make his first start since the win over Tottenham on February 4 after injury.
But Tuchel said on Friday: “Thiago had a little setback in training. At the end of the training session the day before yesterday, he felt at the very end something around the same area that he injured.
“So we had to take him off. So he is back into the transition phase but not team training so he will be out.”
Silva’s absence means Andreas Christensen should start on the left while Rudiger should be restored in the middle after Kurt Zouma made a sporadic start against Everton.
Midfield: James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell
Callum Hudson-Odoi is a rival to Reece James on the right-hand side of the midfield four but Tuchel may keep the faith with James given the threat of Stuart Dallas, while Raphinha could also be deployed on the left.
On the opposite side Luke Ayling is also an offensive threat for the Whites and so Ben Chilwell could displace Marcos Alonso at left wing-back given his superior defensive abilities.
Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho started together at Everton while N’Golo Kante came off the bench for the former in the second half.
Brazil-born Italian Jorginho is suspended for the second leg against Atletico next week, however, meaning he should play the full match here.
Kante should join him in the centre of the park to allow Kovacic a rest before he and his French team-mate occupy the engine room against Diego Simeone’s dogged La Liga side in Europe.
Attack: Mount, Werner, Havertz
Kai Havertz enjoyed his best game yet for Chelsea in the last match at Everton, lining up as a false nine with Olivier Giroud benched and Tammy Abraham unavailable.
Christian Pulisic is still waiting for his opportunity but Tuchel declared on Friday that the American winger needs to improve in matches where he starts.
That means Timo Werner, after missing some good chances against Everton, should stay on the left-hand side against a vulnerable Leeds defence.
Mason Mount came off the bench versus the Toffees, having scored against Liverpool in the game before that, and the in-form England international should come back into the XI here.
Tuchel then has Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Giroud as attacking options in reserve at Elland Road.
Predicted Chelsea XI vs Leeds: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Mount, Werner, Havertz
Players in bold represent changes from previous starting line-up