Chelsea are just a day away from finally getting their Club World Cup campaign underway in Abu Dhabi, and preparations are already posing a number of questions.
Thomas Tuchel is absent from the United Arab Emirates after testing positive for Covid-19 ahead of the FA Cup win over Plymouth Argyle, leaving Arno Michels and Zsolt Low to watch over training in the build up to the semi-final clash with Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia.
The duo do not yet have their full compliment of players to choose from as they await the return of Edouard Mendy following his win at the Africa Cup of Nations, but they did see Mason Mount return to training on Monday following his absence after suffering a knock in the FA Cup.
There are number of decisions to make with the potential for a final to swiftly follow, football.london takes a look at some of the changes that could be made ahead of Wednesday.
Thiago Silva start
After being rested in the FA Cup following a busy international break with Brazil, it would not be surprising to see the Brazilian to the Chelsea starting line up.
Chelsea had four training sessions to prepare for the match against Plymouth, so there was clearly no need to rush Silva back but he is now fully integrated and has proved to be one of the first names on the team sheet in recent months.
Given the prestige of the Club World Cup, particularly in South America, he’s sure to want to start.
His return sees the Blues have their full repertoire central defenders to choose from, which could see the Blues revert back to Tuchel’s favoured back three.
That would of course have consequences further up the field, and given Hakim Ziyech’s recent form it will be a tough decision to make.
Marcos Alonso starts
With a full compliment of centre backs leaving the possibility of Chelsea reverting back to a wing-back system, it would make sense to field Alonso on the left.
Malang Sarr featured at left back in the FA Cup and also against Tottenham before the international break, but the Spanish defender will be able to provide more penetration going forwards.
Kenedy could also be an option given Tuchel’s assessment.
Kai Havertz starts instead of Mason Mount
Given Mount missed Chelsea’s first session in Abu Dhabi after picking up a knock against Plymouth, and only participated in a light session on Monday, it would be prudent to start him on the bench.
If the Blues continue with four at the back, it could provide the opportunity to come into the side and play in front of two centre midfielders and create behind a figure like Romelu Lukaku.
That may allow him to find space in a more efficient manner, in a role he was accustomed to during his time at Bayer Leverkusen.
N’Golo Kante starts instead of Mount, Kai Havertz starts instead of Romelu Lukaku
After being completely rested for the visit of Plymouth to Stamford Bridge, it could be a good opportunity to get minutes into the legs of N’Golo Kante.
The midfielder could be another option to replace Mount and operate in a midfield trio with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic or be a rotation option for one of his midfield comrades. The Italian maestro could be a prime candidate after completing 120 minutes at the weekend.
Another figure that played for the duration was Romelu Lukaku, and it’s safe to say the Belgian struggled once again.
It could be time to see how the Blues play without the £97million striker with Havertz given the opportunity to lead the line.
However, the latter change seems unlikely with Blues coach Michels suggesting they will persist with Lukaku.
He said: “For him, maybe, it’s a little bit tough right now to score. He is working a lot for the team, doing a lot of touches, but is a little bit unlucky.
“We try to put him [on the pitch], give him opportunities, and we will keep on like this because he is an important player for us. He is a striker so therefore he also needs some trust in the moments he doesn’t score.”
However, Lukaku managed just two shots of Chelsea’s 41.