Chelsea face off against Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal in the semi-final of FIFA Club World Cup tomorrow.
The Blues will start the game as big favourites, but they can’t underestimate Al-Hilal, who enter the last four following a stunning 6-1 win over Al Jazira Club.
The Saudi outfit have the presence of potential match-winners such as Matheus Pereira and Moussa Marega, and the Blues don’t have any room for complacency.
Chelsea recently progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup, but it was far from straightforward as League One Plymouth Argyle took them all the way to extra-time. The Blues eventually won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saved a key penalty towards the end to avoid the game going into a shoot-out.
Here is how Chelsea could line up against Al-Hilal on Wednesday:
Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy won the African Cup of Nations title with Senegal on Sunday. He made a crucial save in the penalty shoot-out against Egypt. The 29-year-old has now joined the Blues for the Club World Cup, but could be rested tomorrow, having not been involved in the recent training session in Abu Dhabi. Hence, Arrizabalaga should keep his place. The Spaniard will be full of confidence after helping the Blues avoid a potential penalty shoot-out last weekend.
Thiago Silva and Marcos Alonso to start
Defence: Manager Thomas Tuchel may stick with the 4-3-3 system with which he started against Plymouth, but there is bound to be changes in personnel. Reece James was initially included in the 23-man squad, but has been replaced since with Mendy. The England international has not fully recovered from his hamstring injury. Cesar Azpilicueta should be an automatic choice for the right-back role.
Marcos Alonso should replace Malang Sarr on the opposite side of Chelsea’s defence. Alonso made the difference against Plymouth with an extra-time winner with his weaker right foot. His effort almost went in vain. Sarr conceded a late penalty which wasn’t converted. Tuchel changed to a back three at the interval to accommodate Alonso, but we fancy him to start with a back four tomorrow.
At the heart of the backline, it should be an easy decision for Tuchel. Christensen was taken off at half-time against Plymouth, and it won’t be a surprise if the Dane drops to the bench. Thiago Silva, who has returned following his international excursions with Brazil, is expected to line up alongside Antonio Rudiger in central defence.
N’Golo Kante to return in midfield
Midfield: Mason Mount had a promising display against Plymouth with an assist, but was subbed of midway through extra-time with a knock. The England international has returned to training ahead of tomorrow’s game, but may not be rushed back.
Tuchel may go with three central midfielders in N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. Kante was not even in the matchday squad against Plymouth last weekend, but he was just being rested.
Attack: Hakim Ziyech has been one of the bright spots for the Blues in recent weeks. The Moroccan has two goals in his last three appearances. He is expected to feature for Chelsea from the right wing. However, there could be a change on the opposite flank with Timo Werner making only his second start since the turn of the year.
Romelu Lukaku has been a huge disappointment up front with some poor decision-making. He looks far from his best, and could get the axe with Kai Havertz leading the line.
Expected Chelsea line-up (4-3-3) vs Al-Hilal