Chelsea play their first Champions League fixture for two seasons on Tuesday night and look to have a favourable opening to proceedings in Group C. The Blues have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League on 13 previous occasions and will be eager to get three points on the board in a tricky-looking group containing Atletico Madrid and Roma.
Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 formation is a hallmark of this Chelsea side and his charges seem to be in good form at present. Three consecutive wins against Tottenham, Everton and Leicester have propelled the Blues up to third in the Premier League table – behind the two Manchester clubs – and it will be interesting to see if the 3-5-2 line up works as well in Europe as it does domestically.
Conte has spoken of his desire to rotate the squad at every possible opportunity this season and this looks like the ideal fixture to use the whole roster at his disposal. Willy Caballero looks set to be given his debut in goal, following his free transfer during the summer from Manchester City.
Gary Cahill is also set to return after serving his three-game suspension in the Premier League following his opening-day red card at home to Burnley. He looks set to be flanked in central defence by summer signing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. Davide Zappacosta is lined up to make his home debut at right wing-back following his deadline-day move from Torino, whilst Marcos Alonso should retain his place at left wing-back.
N’Golo Kante is the first name on the team sheet in midfield and with Danny Drinkwater ruled out with a calf injury, Cesc Fabregas could be called upon to add some creativity in the middle of the park.
Conte has confirmed that Eden Hazard will start on the bench, meaning that Willian and Pedro could be given starting berths in support of the striker. Alvaro Morata’s form has delighted the Chelsea faithful, who had their concerns following the ousting of Diego Costa and he should get the nod here over Michy Batshuayi.
Predicted Starting XI
Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost
FK Qarabag are the first team to ever qualify for the group stages of the Champions League from Azerbaijan and have come through three rounds of qualifying to reach this stage. They will be looking to make this game difficult for Chelsea but the Blues have a great record at home under Conte and should have too much for the Azerbaijani side here.
The creativity of Willian, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro will be important in order to break down the Qarabag defence and Gurban Gurbanov has already spoken of his desire to set up defensively at Stamford Bridge.
The Azerbaijani champions have done extremely well to get to this point and they will have dreamt of nights like this – but Chelsea should have too much experience and guile here.
Chelsea to win 3-0.