Jose Mourinho has the luxury of being able to rest a host of key players for Chelsea’s sixth and final Champions League group stage match against Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday night.
The Portuguese coach, speaking earlier today in his pre-match press conference, confirmed that John Terry, Willian and Eden Hazard have all been given a well-deserved night off with Chelsea already safely through to the Champions League knockout rounds as group winners.
This, in turn, will allow a handful of players on the fringes of the first team - as well as a couple of youngsters - to start in what promises to be a competitive match on a chilly night at Stamford Bridge.
Costa to start; Loftus-Cheek to play
So, what else do we already know? Well, Mourinho also revealed that top scorer Diego Costa will - to the surprise of some - start against the Portuguese club, while 18-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek will make his senior debut at some point in the evening.
We expect the 2014 FA Youth Cup-winning captain to come on as a second-half substitute, with Ramires and John Obi Mikel initially lining up in central midfield.
Changes in defence and midfield
That will mean another night off for talismanic central midfielder Nemanja Matic, who missed Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United up at St James’ Park, while Cesc Fabregas is expected to be on the subs’ bench, despite the fact he misses the Blues’ next league fixture against Hull City through suspension.
In defence, Kurt Zouma should come in for Terry - the French starlet lining up alongside Gary Cahill, who will be keen to bounce back strongly after his disappointing display against the Magpies - with summer signing Filipe Luis at left-back and the inexperienced but talented Andreas Christensen at right-back.
Petr Cech and Nani
Petr Cech should start in goal, in place of first-choice teammate Thibaut Courtois, while want-away attacking midfielder Mohamed Salah should line up alongside Oscar and Andre Schurrle behind the prolific Costa.
And Chelsea’s hopes of securing all three points from this match are boosted by the news that Sporting winger Nani, on loan from Manchester United for the season, will miss the match after picking up an injury against Boavista last week.
Chelsea: Predicted XI v Sporting Lisbon
Cech; Christensen, Zouma, Cahill, Filipe Luis; Obi Mikel, Ramires; Schurrle, Oscar, Salah; Costa
Chelsea 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
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