Chelsea haven’t had the best of luck in the Premier League over recent weeks, but on Wednesday night, they will welcome AS Roma to Stamford Bridge for Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League.
Coming off the back of defeats against Manchester City and Crystal Palace, Chelsea will be desperate to avoid three straight defeats, while also maintaining a stranglehold on top spot in Group C.
It won’t be easy for Chelsea. Injuries have plagued the start of this campaign. Eden Hazard missed the first month of the season while recovering from a broken ankle. Victor Moses limped off against Crystal Palace with a hamstring injury and joins N’Golo Kante on the sidelines with that particularly injury. Danny Drinkwater has yet to feature after suffering two separate injuries thus far.
The good news for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is that Alvaro Morata has returned to full training and should be available to face Roma. Michy Batshuayi deputised for the Spaniard against Crystal Palace and departed after just over an hour because of ineffective play.
With Morata fit again, Conte may opt to play the 3-5-2 system he played in the last Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, but that would likely see David Luiz play in midfield. Given his performances since his sending off against Arsenal, it might not be the worst place to play him, especially given the way Andreas Christensen has played in his absence.
Planning for Roma, though, might be a bit difficult for a number of reasons. Eusebio Di Francesco took over this summer after Luciano Spalletti left to take over at Inter Milan. Since arriving, Di Francisco has stuck exclusively to versions of 4-3-3, whereas Spalletti had alternated between 4-3-3 variations and a three-man defence.
That could be in part due to a number of departures of players over the summer. Antonio Rudiger is one obvious departure, and he might be in line to start against his former club, but Mohamed Salah and Leandro Paredes also left the club over the summer, leaving Roma some gaps to fill.
However, Roma are still a strong side. Despite being linked to Chelsea and a number of clubs over the past few years, Radja Nainggolan still patrols the midfield for Roma alongside club talisman Daniele De Rossi.
In attack, Roma are spearheaded by Edin Dzeko who has scored 44 goals in 75 appearances since joining the Italian side on an initial loan from Manchester City back in 2015.
Roma have been handed injury boosts going into Wednesday’s match. Kevin Strootman and Stephan El Shaarawy are both available after missing Saturday’s match against Napoli. But Kostas Manolas suffered a thigh injury in Saturday’s match and is unlikely to feature.
Roma are tricky opposition, but this is a huge opportunity for Chelsea to all but secure qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League. But more important, manager Antonio Conte will be hoping for no more fresh injury concerns, especially this early in the season.