A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s Europa League group match at home to PAOK Salonika.
This Thursday sees the group stage of this season’s Europa League group stages nearing their end. Chelsea play host to PAOK Salonika from Greece and the Londoners are only 1 point away from winning the group.
Admittedly Chelsea are the outstanding side in the group but they have been imperious in winning all 4 group matches so far against varying styles of opponents and look extremely likely to make it 6 victories out of 6 come 13 December.
And the timing of this match couldn’t be better for manager Maurizio Sarri and his squad. After the humiliating loss away to their biggest rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, the best way to recover is to be out there playing another match as soon as possible. Especially against an opposition that The Blues will have a great chance to play some quality football against.
However this match and last Saturday’s trip to Wembley couldn’t be at further extremes away from each other. A home match against possibly the weakest side in a relatively poor group after Chelsea have already qualified for the knockout stages should be the perfect tonic after being completely outclassed at the top end of an incredibly high quality Premier League.
With this mind, and with this coming Sunday’s home match against Fulham up next, the whole Chelsea squad should be chomping at the bit. Especially with qualification already guaranteed, we can expect Sarri to make wholesale changes to his starting line up. Don’t be surprised to see a complete back up side chosen as the first team are rested ready for their Premier League exploits.
Victor Moses is out with a back injury so Davide Zappacosta will probably play behind Pedro on the right flank. Chances will be offered to Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley and possibly Ruben Loftus-Cheek to impress in midfield, while Andreas Christensen will hope to apply pressure to David Luiz’s place in the back 4.
Chelsea only need a point from their final two games to win their group and Sarri will be hoping to wrap it up as soon as possible. With a team of reserves all hoping to catch their manager’s eye with quality performances, this should end up as a comfortable home win and a potential headache for Sarri as he decides who should start on Sunday.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue