Chelsea will hope to use their recent rise of confidence to good effect when they take on Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League at Stamford Bridge.
It will be the first meeting between the two sides since they were drawn in the same group during the 2015/16 Champions League campaign, with the sides drawing in Ukraine before a late Willian free-kick secured three points in London.
For Maurizio Sarri’s side, this is their only realistic chance of capturing silverware this term, having exited the Carabao Cup and FA Cup to Manchester City and Manchester United respectively last month.
The Blues remain undefeated across their eight matches in the competition this season, with their only draw taking place in their final group game away at MOL Vidi in December.
As Chelsea hope to make their home advantage count in the first leg of this round of 16 tie, here is who we predict will start for them on Thursday.
Predicted line-up: (4-3-3) Kepa Arrizabalaga; Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley; Willian, Olivier Giroud, Callum Hudson-Odoi
Predicted substitutes: Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger, Ethan Ampadu, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain
After missing last week’s Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur following a bust-up with manager Sarri, Kepa Arrizabalaga was re-introduced to the side as they faced Fulham in Sunday’s west London derby, where his heroics helped them to a victory. Having restored the faith of his colleagues, combined with his fantastic record in this competition, his spot in the team appears to have been reassured.
Against Fulham, Sarri tinkered with his side, including his defence, where Andreas Christensen started alongside Antonio Rudiger. To continue his rotational pattern, Rudiger could be spared, meaning David Luiz may return at centre-back alongside the young Danish international, with the Spanish duo of Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso occupying the full-back positions.
In past Europa League matches, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante have been among those spared by Sarri, suggesting that they may both have to settle for a place on the bench. With Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both featuring as substitutes against the Cottagers, the duo will be eager to prove their worth and they could find themselves starting alongside Ross Barkley in the three-man midfield.
A fortnight ago, when Chelsea swept aside Malmo in this competition on home soil, it was the front three of Willian, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson-Odoi who carved open the defence of their Swedish opposition and they could again be trusted together with a task of a similar nature against Dynamo Kyiv.
Chelsea’s form has come at the perfect time for them and in order to keep their Europa League dreams alive, a comfortable win is imperative for them.
Score prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Dynamo Kyiv