Chelsea goes into match day five of the Champions League more or less needing a win against Valencia. The Blues need their best to bring their best.
Chelsea has done well enough in a tricky group, but more or less need a win on match day five to keep fate in their own hands. Valencia has had a rough season but will be a very tricky opponent as the Blues should already know. Frank Lampard needs his best team to leave it all on the field. The schedule lightens up again afterwards, so there are no excuses for not going all out.
Kepa Arrizabalaga, 1, Goalkeeper, Spain
Arrizabalaga was left out to dry by his defense and still had a pretty poor match. Really any game where the keeper hands a near wide open net to Sergio Aguero on a platter is a game worth rethinking things on. Arrizabalaga is young (for a keeper) and full of promise but something has to change sooner rather than later. The excuses cannot keep protecting him. Hopefully a day in Spain does his head (and hands) good.
Reece James, 24, Right back, England
There can no longer be an argument not to start James. Both Marcos Alonso and Emerson have utterly let the squad down in their most recent performances and both have caused Lampard to turn to the young English right back. James deserves to play perhaps now more than ever and it would be a huge, and correct, statement to start him against Valencia.
Kurt Zouma, 15, Center back, France
Zouma is a solid enough center back but if Antonio Rudiger returns to fitness anywhere close to where he was, the German needs to start. This was perhaps best showcased late on against Manchester City as the two center backs played a passing game rather than launching it long to try to cause some chaos. That is not Zouma’s fault exclusively, but Rudiger would have start sending the ball forward much more often.
Fikayo Tomori, 29, Center back, England
The only reason Rudiger is a threat to Zouma is because Tomori has basically locked down his spot. He still has some error proneness in him as City showcased quite a few times. Andreas Christensen could challenge him for a spot as they have similar overall skill sets, but physically Tomori has an edge and is about level in every other way. He just needs to keep his head on straight in the moments that need it most.
Cesar Azpilicueta, 28, Left back, Spain
Lost in the shadow of James coming on to bail Lampard out when the left backs have been awful is Azpilicueta shifting over and doing quite well. The common fear is that Azpilicueta will offer nothing going forward on the left but he made quite a few solid runs up the flank late on against City. If James must start (and he should), then Azpilicueta needs to be the man on the left like it is 2014/2015 again. That should be the full back pairing for the next few games at least.