Group H of the Champions League gets underway on Tuesday night, as reigning champions Chelsea host Zenit at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues head into the tie in good form, so far having picked up three wins and a draw to kick off the Premier League season and already boasting silverware to their name in the form of the UEFA Super Cup.
Chelsea’s last defence of Europe’s elite club competition didn’t go to plan. The Londoners won their first crown in 2012, but failed to reach the knockout stage the following season.
In a bid to get this Champions League title retention attempt off to a better start, here’s the lineup Thomas Tuchel could go for on Tuesday night.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (GK) – Edouard Mendy is firmly the club’s number one, although Tuchel could decide to give Kepa a run around in cup competitions – especially considering the Spaniard was the hero of their recent Super Cup triumph.
Cesar Azpilicueta (CB) – Signed in the summer following Chelsea’s first Champions League crown, Azpilicueta is the longest serving player at the club and is as reliable as ever.
Thiago Silva (CB) – Was excellent in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa at the weekend and should retain his place for the assurance and experience he brings.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) – Has seemingly developed into an absolute powerhouse under Tuchel and looks one of the best defenders across Europe in that back three.
Reece James (RWB) – Wasn’t involved on Saturday due to suspension, but should come back into the side for this European fixture, having started the season in fine fettle.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – N’Golo Kante is a doubt, so Kovacic could continue in the midfield. That assist alone last time out deserves a place in the starting XI.
Jorginho (CM) – Earned the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award for his Champions League and Euro 2020 performances last campaign, and will be keen to continue that form as Chelsea embark on their European journey this time out.
Ben Chilwell (LWB) – Marcos Alonso is the preferred option at the moment but he could be afforded a rest in midweek, giving Chilwell a chance to impress.
Mason Mount (RW) – Not involved at the weekend but should come back into the fold for the visit of Zenit. A creative wrecking ball for opposition defences on his day, he should be able to produce plenty of chances on Tuesday.
Romelu Lukaku (ST) – Looks hungry and destructive at the moment and, facing Zenit’s leaky defence, the in-form Lukaku could be in for a field day.
Kai Havertz (LW) – Wrote himself down in Chelsea legend with his goal against Manchester City in last season’s final. It’s time to go again for last campaign’s hero.