Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has threatened to field a heavily rotated side for their trip to Liverpool ahead of their Champions League semi final second leg three days later.
The Blues travel to the league leaders on Sunday, with their return game with Atletico on Wednesday night. With Petr Cech and John Terry out through injury, and John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard out of the Atletico game through suspension, Mourinho is restricted in terms of selection in both games.
Mourinho had wanted the game moved to Saturday to give his side a longer breather between the two games, but that was rejected by Liverpool. Mourinho can’t afford to lose another player, especially in defence, so it’s likely that big changes will be made for Sunday’s game.
Of course, the side that Mourinho picks will still be strong, due to the depth of Chelsea’s squad, but there may be problems in defence. Hilario will likely start in goal as they can’t afford an injury to Mark Schwarzer given Cech is out injured. Daivd Luiz will be needed in midfield on Wednesday, so Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Cole are the only available, experienced defenders.
That could see the likes of Christensen and Kalas feature on Sunday. Of course, the situation is close to the one that occurred during Chelsea’s Champions League run in 2012. In between the two legs of the semi-final Roberto Di Matteo made eight changes to the side that went to Arsenal, with that team securing a 0-0 draw.
They also fielded a weakened side at Anfield later in the season, which they went on to lose 4-1. This team should have enough experience in it to keep things tight, with the midfield of Matic, Lampard and Mikel costing the club close to £60million in transfer fees.
While the league is no longer a priority for Mourinho and Chelsea, they’ll still be hopeful of a result at Anfield, as a win would close the gap between the teams to just two points. The team selection would likely have been a lot closer to the first 11 if they hadn’t thrown away their title hopes with a 2-1 loss against Sunderland last weekend.
With all eyes now focused on beating Atletico on Wednesday, this game seems little more than a distraction to many. But, it is worth noting that Mourinho made similar threats earlier in the season, when they were forced to play Manchester City at home, before travelling to Arsenal in the Capital One Cup two days later.
The Chelsea manager said he’d be playing the club’s youth players, but ultimately decided to play a strong side and won the game 2-0. While Liverpool are a tougher opponent and Wednesday’s game is massive, don’t rule out seeing a few senior players on the pitch on Sunday.
Likely 11: Hilario; Ivanovic, Kalas, Christensen, Cole; Lampard, Mikel, Matic, Schurrle, Salah; Ba
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to grind out a 0-0 draw