There are no more interruptions for Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel to contend with this season. It’s simply a straight sprint to the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
The Blues still have much to compete for. They occupy fourth spot in the Premier League table but will face pressure from a host of teams, including Everton, West Ham United and Liverpool, to keep hold of the final Champions League place.
Meanwhile, there is an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City to come and a Champions League quarter-final tie against Porto, the first leg of which will take place on Wednesday.
Chelsea could, if they reach the finals of both cup competitions, have 16 matches to play until now and the end of May. So Tuchel is going to have to use his squad wisely. Starting against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow.
Several of the Blues’ key players featured regularly for their countries over the past ten days. They need to be given a break ahead of the run-in. Tuchel can ensure that happens.
The Chelsea squad is deep enough that rotation doesn’t mean a drop-off in quality. And here our Chelsea writers, Adam Newson and Sam Inkersole, have selected the teams they think should start against Sam Allardyce’s side.
With the midweek Champions League clash with Porto to come, I think Tuchel is going to box clever with his team selection against West Brom and use those players who had lighter workloads during the international break.
Edouard Mendy didn’t join up with Senegal as he needed to undergo a tooth operation, but he should be fit to take on the Baggies having trained this week.
In defence, Cesar Azpilicueta remained at Cobham so will be fresh to start. Thiago Silva, meanwhile, returned to training this week after recovering from a thigh injury and tomorrow’s game is ideal for him to prove his fitness.
I would complete the back three with Kurt Zouma. Not only did he play just 90 minutes for France during the international break but his aerial prowess alongside the smaller Azpilicueta and Silva would be important.
With Callum Hudson-Odoi nursing a shoulder injury, Reece James is nailed on to start at right wing-back. On the opposite flank, Marcos Alonso should get the nod as he wasn’t selected by Spain for international duty and should be well-rested.
Neither N’Golo Kante (hamstring) or Jorginho (knee) have to be risked against the 19th-placed Baggies, so Mateo Kovacic and Billy Gilmour are starters in midfield.
Further up the pitch, Christian Pulisic returned from international duty at the start of the week so has had several days to prepare for the game. And Timo Werner only played 63 minutes of football for Germany so will be fit and ready to play.
I would have Tammy Abraham leading the attack. The England international has had two weeks to get over the ankle injury that has been bothering him for more than a month and will also have had time to prepare for tomorrow’s game with Tuchel.
Adam’s Chelsea side (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Zouma; James, Gilmour, Kovacic, Alonso; Pulisic, Werner; Abraham
It’s nothing short of impossible to try and predict a Thomas Tuchel starting 11 as the manager has made about 50 changes to his starting lineup over the past 14 games. However, for the purposes of this article of course, I’ll try and predict a team though it is likely to be wrong.
One thing we can be pretty sure of is Edouard Mendy starting in goal. The Senegal stopper underwent tooth surgery at the beginning of the international break and should be fine to start against West Bromwich Albion.
The back five should remain largely unchanged. Cesar Azpilicueta had no international commitments the past fortnight so should start, while Reece James started only one of three England games. Andreas Christensen should be relatively fresh as well.
There are a couple of questions, Antonio Rudiger played 270 minutes for Germany in the break and Ben Chilwell 180. Thiago Silva is back in training, Kurt Zouma started only one for France and Marcos Alonso remained at Cobham.
In midfield, N’Golo Kante shouldn’t be risked for the Baggies game with Jorginho back in training as well following a knock. Mateo Kovacic didn’t play 90 minutes for Croatia during the international break, so he should be OK as well.
Mason Mount had a hefty workload for England and could be in line for a weekend off to keep him fresh for Porto, much like Kante. Hakim Ziyech will likely start as well having played 90 minutes once for Morocco on international duty.
In attack, Kai Havertz may well be another player in line for a break, with Tuchel able to choose between Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud up top. Tammy Abraham is also back in training so is in contention to start.
Put simply, I haven’t got a clue what kind of line-up Tuchel could go with but if I had to have a guess at one, here it is…
Sam’s Chelsea side (5-2-1-2): Mendy; James, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Alonso; Jorginho, Kovacic, Ziyech; Werner, Giroud.