Chelsea travel to Liverpool for their penultimate away game of the Premier League season. Their defeat by Sunderland last weekend has taken a lot of the significance away from what should have been a title decider, but Jose Mourinho has not lost any of the impetus to bring home all three points. He told his weekly press conference, per ITV: “We are going to try to win. That's the simple and objective answer. Nobody goes to a game to lose.”
His comments after the first leg of the Champions League semi-final indicated that, due to a combination of injuries and tactical planning, Chelsea would field a weakened team on Sunday. With Roman Abramovich reportedly giving his blessing to this plan, per The Telegraph, let's take a look at the likely lineup.
Petr Cech’s dislocated shoulder brought his season to a premature close last Tuesday, throwing Mark Schwarzer in at the deep end in the process. The 41-year-old was able to keep a clean sheet, becoming the oldest player to appear in the Champions League knockout stages in the process, and he should keep his position for Sunday.
John Terry also left the Atletico Madrid game early after taking a knock to his ankle, compounding a problem which has been troubling him intermittently for the past few weeks. Gary Cahill will most likely be rested ahead of the second leg of the semi-final, with Branislav Ivanovic replacing him at centre-half.
Mourinho’s allusion to playing “the kids,”per The Independent, could see Nathan Ake and Tomas Kalas start at centre-half and right-back respectively. Ashley Cole is likely to remain at left-back, giving Cesar Azpilicueta a much-needed rest.
Bookings for Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel at the Vicente Calderon see them suspended for the second leg of the semi-final, ushering them into the starting XI on Sunday. Ramires is unavailable as he serves the first game of a four-match ban, and David Luiz will be rested for Wednesday. Nemanja Matic should complete the midfield trio, with Marco Van Ginkel available from the bench after his horrible knee injury.
As the day ends in y, it will be the attacking midfield which gives Mourinho the biggest selection headache. Mohamed Salah should start due to his ineligibility for the Champions League, while Eden Hazard will not play as he races to recover from a calf injury in time for Wednesday’s game, per the official Chelsea website.
Oscar is likely to be rested, as is Andre Schurrle, leaving Willian as the likely choice on the right of the attack on Sunday. The Brazilian has been excellent since joining the Blues last summer, but he is one yellow card away from missing the Champions League Final if Chelsea do manage to progress, per UEFA.com.
Samuel Eto’o has been ruled out through injury, and it is unclear how Fernando Torres would react to facing two former clubs in quick succession. Demba Ba should be the Blues' first-choice up front, although Mourinho would probably prefer to play one of the under-10s.
Rio Brant. Chelsea's u-10 striker. Scored 40 goals and assisted 39 in 29 games. SIGN HIM UP!!! Brant > FT9+Ba+Eto'o. pic.twitter.com/u42iBcI38j— Joe ✌ (@ChelsLad95) April 21, 2014
Joking aside, this has been the most difficult lineup to predict this season, and it will probably look something like this.
Whether you agree with Chelsea putting all of their young eggs into one big-eared basket or not, this final quote from Jose, per The Mirror, should assure you that he knows exactly what he is doing.
I think Chelsea fans want Chelsea FC to be respected and to get the respect Chelsea FC deserves. They know what Chelsea have done for the club and for English football for the last 10 years.
They've been the most important club to defend this country in European competitions: they won the Champions League, they won the Europa League, they think Chelsea deserve more respect that they are getting.
So they want Chelsea to go to Liverpool and play, as always, at the maximum, giving everything they have. Which players? That's our decision, not your decision.
Roll on Sunday.