After a two-month absence, Chelsea will hope that their return to action in the Europa League is a successful one.
A trip to Sweden is what Maurizio Sarri’s side encounter in the first leg of their round of 32 clash with 20-time domestic league champions Malmo.
In this competition, the Blues are yet to taste defeat in their six matches this season, five of those ending in wins for Chelsea.
Ahead of their first ever competitive clash with Malmo, we predict the side that Sarri could field in Scandinavia.
Predicted line-up: (4-3-3) Kepa Arrizabalaga; Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Emerson, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley; Willian, Olivier Giroud, Callum Hudson-Odoi
Predicted substitutes: Willy Caballero, Davide Zappacosta, David Luiz, Jorginho, Pedro, Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain
Club-record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga has conceded just once in his five Europa League appearances this term. However, after being spared for December’s 2-2 draw with MOL Vidi, Kepa is likely to reclaim his spot in place of Willy Caballero.
Marcos Alonso has been left in London for the trip, meaning Sarri could turn to Emerson at left-back. Andreas Christensen could also be thrown into the defensive frame in order to add another pair of fresh legs, whilst Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger could keep their places in the side.
Another regular presence in Chelsea’s side during recent matches in Jorginho, who could have to settle for a place on the bench, meaning Mateo Kovacic may start as the deep-lying midfielder, with N’Golo Kante and Ross Barkley staying in the side just in front of him.
Sarri’s likeliness to rotate, given Chelsea’s upcoming FA Cup clash with Manchester United, could see the trio of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Olivier Giroud and Willian replace Pedro, Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard respectively up front.
Malmo proved to be a tough side to crack during the group stages of the competition and whilst Chelsea have made light work of their Europa League opponents to date, expect the Blues to be frustrated by a Malmo side who pride themselves on their solidarity.
Score prediction: Malmo 0-1 Chelsea