Chelsea go into their final game in the Champions League group stage knowing they have already secured top spot in the group. Their name is already in the pot for the last 16 draw, unlike their opponents, and they will therefore play without any pressure. Expect a lot of changes for the home side, who will be trying to bounce back from their first defeat of the season after losing to Newcastle on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho already said after the Schalke game that he wanted to wrap up the group with a game to spare, because it gives him a chance to rest players in the middle of a busy run of fixtures. With little riding on this game, we’ll probably see a side similar to the one that has featured in the League Cup this season.
Petr Cech should get another chance in goal, and he should be playing behind quite an experienced defence. Cesar Azpilicueta could move over to the right hand side, with Filipe Luis likely to come into the team. Expect at either (or perhaps both) of John Terry or Gary Cahill not to feature, with Kurt Zouma expected to start in the middle of the back four.
In midfield, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic aren’t likely to play. Nathan Ake probably would have featured here, but he’s currently injured. Ramires is likely to feature, alongside John Obi Mikel. Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard have been the first choice three in the attacking midfield positions for the last few weeks, so expect at least a couple of them to get a rest.
Mohammed Salah and Andre Schurrle should both feature, with one of those three probably starting alongside them. Mourinho could throw a couple of the youth players into the team, with Lewis Baker, Dominic Solanke and Isiah Brown mentioned at the start of the season as possibly making a couple of first team appearances. Expect them to at least make the bench, and maybe one may sneak into the first 11.
Up front, Diego Costa won’t feature given the problems he’s had with playing three games in a week. Mourinho obviously won’t risk him here, so Loic Remy or Didier Drogba will come in. Both have been in good form of late, and Drogba was effective after coming on against Newcastle. Loic Remy hasn’t had too many starts this season, so expect him to get a chance here.
The Blues have a run of five games in 15 days coming up shortly after this game, so it makes sense to give the first team stars a rest. Despite that, Mourinho knows his side needs to be competitive, given that Schalke are relying on them to get a win to have a chance of making the next round. A point sees Sporting through, and Blues fans will of course be hoping that Roberto Di Matteo can take his side through as well, given everything he’s done for the club. Chelsea’s fortunes will still come first, and their necessary changes could hand Sporting a crucial point.
LCN verdict: 1-1