Date: 22nd September 2021 at 1:00pm
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Chelsea enter the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening as they host Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in the third round of the competition. 

The visitors knocked out League Two side Barrow in the previous round, with a convincing 6-0 victory away from home.

Now, it is Tuchel’s side’s turn to show what they can do in the first domestic cup competition of the season.

The Blues have a strong pedigree in this particular competition, winning it on five occasions and reaching the final as recently as 2019.

Tuchel’s side are also in superb form heading into the tie, having won four of their first five games in the league and also beaten Zenit St. Petersburg in their Champions League opener a week ago.

Despite his side’s form, the German will likely make a number of changes ahead of the tie, with a tough league fixture against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge looming on Saturday.

Below, we predict the XI that Tuchel will go with for the visit of Villa.

Goalkeeper

Speculation in the build up to the clash has suggested that Marcus Bettinelli could be handed his debut for the club, however Kepa Arrizabalaga looks more likely to start after impressing during the Blues’ 3-0 victory over rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The Spaniard, who was deputising for the injured Edouard Mendy, has kept seven clean sheets in his last 11 games across all competitions.

Defence

At the back, Tuchel will be wary of changing too much and will want to maintain the momentum that his side has gained from five clean sheets in the opening six games.

Nathaniel Chalobah, who was imperious in pre-season and grabbed his first goal against Crystal Palace on the opening weekend, will expect to start as part of the back three.

Chalobah has impressed whenever given the opportunity this season

Alongside him, Andreas Christensen will likely keep his place as the sale of Kurt Zouma to West Ham United leaves Tuchel short of the option to change his entire back line.

Malang Sarr could also be handed a debut for Chelsea more than a year after joining the club. The Frenchman spent last season on loan with Portuguese side Porto, but has been included in Tuchel’s squad this term and will see the domestic cups as the perfect opportunity to gain game time.

Midfield

In the middle of the park, Tuchel may also opt to give fringe players a rare opportunity. Saul Niguez endured a debut to forget against Villa and hasn’t featured again since being substituted at half-time, but may be recalled in order to give the likes of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic a rest.

Saul was substituted at half-time against Villa in the league after a difficult debut

Next to him, Ross Barkley will hope to make his first appearance of the season. The former Everton man started his loan spell at Villa last term impressively, but fell out of favour and returned to Chelsea over the summer with little chance of being involved in Tuchel’s side. N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount will both be rested.

On the right hand side, Callum Hudson-Odoi could be given the nod at wing-back. The Englishman has been told by his manager that he sees wing-back as his best position. Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James have both played a lot in the early weeks of the season and will be rested.

On the left, Ben Chilwell will expect to start ahead of Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard has started all of Chelsea’s games this season, with the Englishman’s only minutes so far coming against Zenit. Chilwell will undoubtedly be keen on regaining his starting spot in the league, and a cup game against Premier League opponents could be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Forwards

Ruben Loftus-Cheek can expect to be given a chance to impress as part of a front three. The Englishman has never regained the form he shown under Maurizio Sarri since sustaining an injury in a friendly in the USA, but made a rare appearance from the bench late on against Zenit and will be hoping to build on that.

Loftus-Cheek will be hoping to make his first start of the season

Through the middle, Timo Werner could be handed a first start of the season in order to give Romelu Lukaku a rest. The pair linked up well during the German’s cameo against Spurs on Sunday, and could possibly have given Tuchel a lot to think about ahead of the visit of City on Saturday.

On the other side, Hakim Ziyech will be hoping to make another start and will be hopeful of scoring for the first time since the UEFA Super Cup victory over Villarreal. The Moroccan has struggled to impress since arriving from Ajax last summer, and will be hoping to kickstart a run of form by impressing on Wednesday evening. Cristian Pulisic remains sidelined and is also likely to miss the game against City.

With such an embarrassment of talent at his disposal, Tuchel will undoubtedly be confident that whatever XI he opts for will be capable of progressing through to the next round.

For a number of fringe and out-of-form players, however, the fixture could be a golden opportunity to impress and perhaps earn a chance in the league.

 
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