After narrowly avoiding extra time in the League Cup, Chelsea put that competition on the backburner as they prepare for a trip to the newly revitalized Everton.
Sam Allardyce has made the Toffees look foolish in waiting so long to hire him as they have begun to barrel up the table. This is not the same team Chelsea’s B-Team was able to beat in the League Cup. This is now a team that will harass and threaten and Antonio Conte must prepare the squad for the task.
THIBAUT COURTOIS, Belgium
Courtois had the day off in the League Cup so rumors could start about him becoming the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world if he signs the five-year contract Chelsea allegedly offered.
Courtois is one of the world’s best, but not the best.
But nothing short of spectacular will keep him at the club and if the rumor is revealed to be true then it would be a sign of intent that Chelsea intend to keep pushing for the highest level of club status.
CESAR AZPILICUETA, Spain
A day off for Azpilicueta is an equal to about 100 full matches of rest for him, so he should be ready to go. Antonio Rudiger did fine as he deputized against Bournemouth.
But that is all the German is right now: a deputy. Rudiger has not done enough to usurp Azpilicueta or Cahill from their spots, but has given Conte a chance to rest the both of them.
The season is almost half over so he has time but he may have to wait a bit.
ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN, Denmark
Ethan Ampadu stepped in for Christensen in the League Cup and did far better than his previous cameo in the back-three would have suggested. The young prospect still has some kinks to iron out but the signs are promising. He will not push Christensen from his spot anytime soon, but in the absence of David Luiz, Conte will be content knowing there is a solid plan B to utilize.
GARY CAHILL, England
Perhaps it was an instruction from Conte to calm Ampadu, but Cahill and Ampadu passed the ball back and forth like an old-fashioned father and his rebellious son after the mother told them to go outside and leave her in peace.
It got more than ridiculous how often they looked to each other for an out ball or even a stat padding ball. Cahill covered for Ampadu when mistakes were made and will return to the starting lineup once more in Liverpool.
VICTOR MOSES, Nigeria
Moses’ return from injury has gone better than expected. Usually, Conte likes to ease players back in but with Moses he threw him right back in where he left off.
The gamble paid off as the Nigerian wingback has put in solid shifts.
Meanwhile, Davide Zappacosta has become something of a second thought despite holding his own. Moses will take the start but Zappacosta will have more to say about it in the future.
CESC FABREGAS, Spain
One of the biggest reasons for using the 3-5-2 is the freedom it allows Fabregas to create. He has quietly put together one of the best stats sheets for a midfielder this season.
He is pulling the strings in a way that has gone unrecognized and is better than many of the players getting plaudits.
But that will suit Fabregas just fine. Like his manager, he understands that stats are meaningless if the most important stat is a loss at the end of the day.
N’GOLO KANTE, France
Kante had one of his worst games in a Chelsea shirt and then was rested for the League Cup fixture. That should be enough to get him through the New Year.
Kante playing well is vital to the entire squad playing well. His role has taken different flavors over time but overall Chelsea loses an edge going forward and backward with Kante playing poor. A bounce back is in the cards against Everton.
TIEMOUE BAKAYOKO, France
Bakayoko bounced back from his severe dip in form that caused many to lose faith in him after a good start to the season. Bakayoko is young and can do many things, but has not always had the best situation to flourish this season.
Recent matches have seen him excel in the 3-4-3, but Conte is unlikely to use that formation again. With Danny Drinkwater having a rough time recently (often in a 3-4-3), Bakayoko will step in to prove he can succeed in any shape.
MARCOS ALONSO, Spain
Alonso was another of the rarely-rotated players finally rotated. His last match showed all the things he brings to the table and further highlights why Chelsea do not need to pay big money for a player to bench Alonso.
Alonso needs a backup, yes, and Kenedy can occasionally do that job but not against top opposition. All Alonso needs is a Zappacosta to his Moses and the squad (and Alonso) will be grateful for it.
MICHY BATSHUAYI, Belgium
Batshuayi was rarely involved in the League Cup fixture but when he was he showed excellent hold up play and a keen eye for sneaky flicks.
With Alvaro Morata suspended, Conte will have to choose between False Nine Eden Hazard 3-4-3 or a Batshuayi-Hazard 3-5-2 Partnership.
With Willian and Pedro both starting the last three matches, it would be unusual for Conte to start them again. So Batshuayi gets another big chance to prove himself.
EDEN HAZARD, Belgium
Hazard is once more pulling Chelsea along as Morata has been injured or suspended. The last time he did so he won Premier League Player of the Year and the Premier League itself.
Both seem out of reach but the halfway point of the season is only just about to happen. Crazy runs in one part of the season can fall apart the next and vice versa.
What matters is the desire to keep pushing and Hazard has that and will pull the squad kicking and screaming along with him.
Would you rather see another use of the false-nine, or does Michy Batshuayi warrant a look in the 3-5-2? Let us know below!