On Thursday evening Chelsea face a long trip to Belarus for the first time in their history, as they continue their quest for Europa League glory.
Chelsea Travel To BATE Borisov in Crucial Europa League Clash
The Blues opponents are Belarusian Champions BATE Borisov. They convincingly beat the hosts 3-1 at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago thanks to a stunning Ruben Loftus-Cheek hattrick.
BATE will be buoyed by the fact they clinched the Belarussian Premier League title at the weekend, with a 1-0 victory over Neman Grodno. Yuri Berezkin’s 88th minute winner was the difference in confirming a thirteenth consecutive title, their fifteenth overall.
Chelsea will also be full of confidence after a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace stretched the West-London club’s unbeaten start to the season to 16 matches in all competitions.
A Blues victory would confirm qualification to the knockout stages as they sit top of group L with a maximum 9 points from 3 games. BATE are level on 3 points with group rivals PAOK and Mol Vidi, but sit bottom of the group due to an inferior goal difference.
Chelsea host Everton on Sunday, and so Maurizio Sarri will once again ring the changes. The squad that has travelled to Minsk has some notable absences – Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Alvaro Morata and Victor Moses have all been rested. In addition Cesc Fabregas has not travelled due to suffering from a fever.
Sarri also confirmed that Eden Hazard will not complete 90 minutes as he continues his rehabilitation from a back injury. The Belgian was missing for recent home games against BATE and Derby County, but returned for a cameo appearance against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The likes of Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will all be in contention for a place in the starting line up. A golden opportunity to impress Sarri in the hope of cementing a more regular starting spot.
Also youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu will hope to get a chance of gaining valuable experience from the bench.
The 2nd qualifying spot is still up for grabs. With this in mind, BATE boss Alyaksey Baha is certain to field his strongest possible starting XI.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups:
Bate Borisov: Scherbitski, Rios ,Filipovic, Filipenko – Volodko, Baga ,Dragun, Hleb -Skavysh, Signevich, Stasevich.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Zappacosta, Emerson, Cahill, Christensen – Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley – Willian, Pedro, Giroud.
The 35-year-old is now in the twilight of his career but brings a wealth of experience that included a three-year spell with Arsenal, and four years at Barcelona. His legs might not be as youthful, but his experience will be vital if BATE are to inflict an upset.
The 22-year-old has been waiting for his big chance under Sarri. Two weeks ago he delivered a masterful performance, showing exactly why Chelsea fans have been purring over his ability for so long.
Chelsea dominated the previous meeting, and really should have secured a more convincing scoreline. Therefore a comfortable victory for The Blues is the most likely outcome.
The Blues will, however, need to be wary of how big the fixture is to BATE. They will need to keep their cool and stay professional in what will be a fiery atmosphere.
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