Chelsea have confirmed Thomas Tuchel’s starting eleven for the UEFA Champions League group stage opener against Zenit this evening.
Reverting to a more familiar-looking cast, the German makes five changes to the side that started against Aston Villa on Saturday evening in the Premier League.
The Blues will be hoping to begin the defence of their European crown in better fashion than they did nine years ago under Roberto Di Matteo in a 2-2 draw with Juventus. Tuchel’s lineup includes his most trusted regulars, plus his new elite forward in Romelu Lukaku fresh off his first two goals at Stamford Bridge.
There are very few complaints personally from me from this lineup. It is a little surprise to see club captain Cesar Azpilicueta back in the lineup after coming off the bench against Villa. Jorginho likewise settled things down after Saul’s nightmare debut, and it would just feel wrong to not start UEFA Men’s Player of the Year in this game.
Ben Chilwell’s long-awaited return to the eleven continues and is now becoming a greater concern than first thought. It is quite puzzling and frustrating given the talent we have in the English defender. If not tonight, when will he get his first competitive minutes of the season? Chilwell was a star performer in the final against Manchester City, to see him sit this one out is just confusing.
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The brilliant Edouard Mendy makes his 50th appearance for the club after a brilliant performance on Saturday.
Mason Mount starting is not a shock given how essential he is to us, though I would prefer him to be subbed early here if possible by Tuchel. With games coming up against Spurs, Manchester City and Juventus any chance to rest Mount is welcomed – even if he has an engine to cope.
Supporters hoping for Timo Werner to combine with Lukaku will have to wait and is further proof the German forward won’t find minutes as easy as last season. It will be a test of his character, especially if Hakim Ziyech performs well in his second consecutive start.
With an energised capacity Stamford Bridge and a Chelsea squad that should be full of confidence, this should be a routine win for Tuchel’s European Champions on opening night.
Chelsea Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpi, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso, Ziyech, Mount, Lukaku
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