Chelsea will be without four players for the second leg against Atletico Madrid. How do the Blues adapt around the absences?
There are, of course, the two expected absences due to suspension. Mason Mount and Jorginho both miss out due to yellow card accumulation. Thomas Tuchel mentioned how, with the four absences, his squad selection would be easy and no other position will be as easy to decide as the two in the pivot. Jorginho out means N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic will line up centrally, with maybe the slim chance of Billy Gilmour actually making the bench.
Mount’s situation is trickier. The young Englishman has easily been Chelsea’s best player over the course of the season. More than that, he is a quiet leader on the pitch. Mount is often found leading the press and he is also a key figure in the transition into the final third. The Blues have rarely gone without him this season, and when they have, the team has lacked something that Mount provides. No other option can do what Mount does, though they will at least be given the chance to do so.
Tammy Abraham will miss out through injury once again which further constrains the options in the forward trio. No Mount and no Abraham leaves Kai Havertz, Olivier Giroud, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, and Callum Hudson-Odoi. Hudson-Odoi seems like a sure bet to start with Reece James probably more likely at wingback after Pulisic started against Leeds. The rest is up in the air. Werner is probably earmarked for a start after resting on the weekend but Tuchel could really do anything with the final two positions.
Thiago Silva will also remain out for this fixture but that hasn’t proven to be a burden on Chelsea with Andreas Christensen’s form. It would be surprising to see too much changing at the back with Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger often flanking Christensen with great success as of late.
Tuchel said, given the closeness of the international break, that it was likely neither Silva nor Abraham would be available until after but that they would be ready to go when play resumed. Neither loss will be felt too greatly as both have been out for a few matches where Chelsea has been able to continue their unbeaten run.
The loss of Mount and Jorginho is a much bigger pain as so much goes through the former coming and going and the loss of the latter forces Chelsea’s team selection for what is likely to be the full 90. Five substitutes are allowed but it is unlikely any will be used on the pivot unless Chelsea somehow runs away with the fixture.
At 1-0 on aggregate and the vital away goal present for Chelsea, the Blues go into this one with a slim advantage. It would be very easy to sit back and force Atletico to equalize on aggregate but that would also be very dangerous for the Blues. Even without Mount, Jorginho, Abraham, and Silva, Chelsea will likely need to play for a win to keep the Spanish giants at bay.