After an enormous win over Manchester City on Saturday, Chelsea hopped on a plane to travel to Hungary to take on MOL Vidi in the final match of the Europa League group stages.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri says that this match is a difficult one to prepare for, and he’s correct.
With qualification as group winners already sealed and coming off the emotion of Saturday’s win, Chelsea’s mental focus will need to be on display, especially facing a Vidi side that does have something to play for at home.
A better result for Vidi than BATE Borisov will see the Hungarian side qualify for the knockout stages, and the best way to do that would be to claim a big win at home over Chelsea.
But for Chelsea, this is a bit of a dead rubber, and the 19-man squad that travelled certain reflects that. Eden Hazard, Kepa Arrizabalaga, N’Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger, and Cesar Azpilicueta were left back in London to rest, while Mateo Kovacic and Gary Cahill are injured, though the latter may be on his way out on loan in January.
But George McEachran has joined the 19-man squad for the first time this season and will likely find a seat on the bench, as the 19th member of the squad is Jamie Cumming who is the third goalkeeper.
There will likely be starts for Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi and a chance for each to impress, and Alvaro Morata, who was left out of the squad entirely, will likely play some part in the match despite rumours that he may be allowed to leave the club in January.
It won’t be an easy match, though. Vidi played well at Stamford Bridge in the first meeting and frustrated Chelsea despite a 1-0 defeat. But hopefully some of the younger players see this as an opportunity to try and push for more playing time, especially if there are departures in January.
A Europa League match with very little pressure to perform is a perfect platform for the likes of Hudson-Odoi and Ampadu to leave an impression on the manager in a competition that’s seen Ruben Loftus-Cheek take advantage of similar opportunities.
We’ll have to see what Sarri decides to do with his team selection on Thursday.