Chelsea travel to Greece on Thursday night to begin their Europa League adventure. PAOK Thessaloniki is first on the agenda, and a win against the Greece side would get Chelsea’s European excursions off to a good start.
The Chelsea side that will face PAOK is yet undecided. Common sense suggested that manager Maurizio Sarri might consider the Europa League as a chance to rotate his side, and it appears he will do just that.
David Luiz, Eden Hazard, Emerson, and Mateo Kovacic were all left out of the travelling squad for a variety of reasons. Luiz and Hazard appear to be given a rest from this fixture, while Kovacic is given extra time to recover from the knock he suffered on Saturday. Emerson is also missing due to injury.
But the squad that still travelled is a strong one. Cesc Fabregas has returned to training after recovering from a knee injury that has kept him out since the Community Shield. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also in the squad after missing Saturday’s match against Cardiff City with a lower leg injury.
Despite the absentees, Sarri has suggested he won’t be making wholesale changes to the team. What that actually means for Thursday night is anybody’s guess, but Gary Cahill and Andreas Christensen will both be looking to make their first appearances of the season, and Ethan Ampadu, fresh off of signing a new contract extension, will be hoping to make an appearance in either midfield or defence after strong performances for Wales.
PAOK got their season started early with two rounds of qualification in the Champions League, before falling in the third qualification round to Benfica.
Wins over FC Basel and Spartak Moscow got them to the third round, where a 4-1 defeat to Benfica at home in the second leg sent them to Europa League.
With the Greek Super League just under way, PAOK will be hoping to take a big scalp early in their campaign with a win over Chelsea.