Europa League: Chelsea Entertain PAOK Salonika

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Chelsea Europa League
Chelsea's players pose before the UEFA Europa League group L football match between FC BATE Borisov and Chelsea FC in Borisov outside Minsk on November 8, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s dismal performance against Tottenham as they return to Europa League action.

Europa League: Chelsea Entertain PAOK Salonika

PAOK are the visitors to Stamford Bridge as the Group L leaders aim to secure top spot. Qualification was confirmed following a 1-0 win away to BATE Borisov during the last round of fixtures.

A point is all that’s needed to confirm the Blues as a top seed in the round-of-32 later on in the season.

Team News

Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri is set to shuffle the pack with Chelsea entertaining Fulham on Sunday in a West-London derby.

During the pre-match press conference, the Italian confirmed that Victor Moses is the only major injury concern. Sarri also gave an update on Eden Hazard’s ankle problem that he sustained at Wembley, deeming it ‘not serious’. However, he did mention that the Belgian will be rested tomorrow night.

It’s likely the former Napoli boss will continue with a similar starting line-up to those that he has picked in previous Europa League games.

That would mean a start for the fringe players within the squad. Olivier Giroud will be hoping to get a start after coming off the bench to score a consolation at the weekend.

It’s unlikely any youngsters will get a chance to start though. Sarri spoke of how difficult it is to include the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi with 28 players at his disposal. He did, however, confirm the 18-year-old is included in the 18-man squad to face PAOK.

PAOK

The Greeks will be well aware a defeat could end their hopes of advancing to the next round. A win for Mol Vidi at BATE Borisov would confirm their exit unless they can pull off a shock victory at Stamford Bridge.

The Greek champions are once again dominating on home soil. They currently sit five points clear at the top of the Greek Super League with ten wins and a draw from eleven fixtures.

Manager Răzvan Lucescu is most likely to field the same team that beat Xanthi 2-0 at the weekend. Second half goals from Mauricio and Alexsandar Prijovic secured another three points for PAOK.

Their Europa League form hasn’t been as bright as their domestic form though. Despite a 1-0 defeat at home to Chelsea on matchday one, they resoundingly beat BATE 4-1 in Belarus.

However, since then they have lost their lost two matches against Mol Vidi; 2-0 at home and 1-0 away. No injury problems have been reported and they have travelled to London with a full squad.

Who to Look Out For

Olivier Giroud

The Frenchman endured a torrid start to the season and only scored his first goal a fortnight ago at BATE. He has since added another against Spurs.

The former Arsenal man is likely to start against PAOK, and will want to take any opportunity to prove to Maurizio Sarri that he can lead the Chelsea line on a regular basis.

His strength could prove pivotal against a stubborn Greek defence, and there’s every chance his experience could make him a match winner.

Léo Jáber

The young Brazilian joined PAOK last summer from Russian outfit Akhmat Grozny. The 20-year-old showed flashes of what he has to offer during the home game with Chelsea.

He is a tricky winger with bags of pace to test The Blues backline. Recent defensive frailties could well be put to the test, and Jáber will see this as a great opportunity to shine on a bigger stage.

Prediction

Chelsea will want to get back to winning ways. A convincing performance would see them go into the weekend on a high. PAOK offered very little earlier in the season, but are sure to be a stern test. The Blues are obviously far stronger as a unit and should see their class shine through.

Score prediction: Chelsea 2-0 PAOK

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