Fantasy Premier League managers were given clues to Chelsea’s next starting line-up in their latest Europa League win.
The Blues are in action at Everton on Sunday as the final game of Blank Gameweek 31, just three days after comfortably winning 5-0 against Dynamo Kyiv.
That means we can be fairly confident which players will start at Goodison Park after a brief analysis of the Chelsea side that was utilised in Ukraine.
We are reticent to read too much into the result itself though, as assessing anything more than the line-ups would tell us very little given the result and the manner of it.
Europa League quarter-final draw:
- Arsenal v Napoli
- Slavia Prague v Chelsea
Dynamo Kyiv 0-5 Chelsea
Goals: Olivier Giroud x3 (£7.7m), Marcos Alonso (£6.4m), Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m)
Assists: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m), Alonso, Hudson-Odoi, Willian (£7.1m)
Fantasy managers are now clear to sign Eden Hazard (£10.9m) after he was, as expected, given the night off on Thursday. The Belgian was an unused substitute as Chelsea convincingly swept Dynamo Kyiv aside, dominating the game from early on and scoring in the first five minutes. A popular target for Blank Gameweek 31, for those playing the Free Hit chip or not, confirmation that Hazard is still fresh for the weekend should now trigger more purchases for him.
Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) laid down another statement of intent in the Europa League as he scored a hat-trick and added an assist in a total demolition job against Kyiv. The forward has now scored nine goals in as many continental matches this season and continues to prove what an excellent link-up man he is for exciting wide players. Gonzalo Higuaín‘s (£9.6m) illness this week might have some thinking that Giroud could be involved against Everton but given he played 90 minutes in Ukraine and has not started a Premier League match since Gameweek 20, it seems unlikely that he will be in the first XI. More likely, he could be used as a substitute as it seems probable that Higuaín will be over his illness in time. At the very least, the Frenchman is proving he is capable of stepping in if need be.
“(Giroud was) Very, very good. But, in the last period, every time he has been on the pitch, he was able to play really very well. He’s scored nine goals in this competition. As you know very well, Olivier for us is a very important player. I’m really very happy for him, and am really very happy with him.” – Maurizio Sarri
74 minutes for Willian (£7.1m) against Kyiv, plus a benching in Gameweek 30 mean that the Brazilian is unlikely to start at Goodison Park. That makes him much less of an option for those planning to play the Free Hit and save some money on a Chelsea attacker this week, despite his recent underlying statistics looking quite favourable. Pedro (£6.3m) featured only as a 74th-minute substitute in Ukraine so it looks as if the Spaniard will join Higuaín if fit, and Hazard in the front three on Sunday and could be the alternative to go for.
It is now clear as it can get that Marcos Alonso (£6.4m) has lost his place in the first-team to Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m). The Spaniard played the full 90 minutes against Kyiv having missed the last two Premier League matches, while his Italian counterpart was given the night off. Despite slipping down the pecking order, it was actually a textbook attacking performance from Alonso. He was an exciting outlet down Chelsea’s left flank and his cross into the box for Giroud’s second goal was expertly weighted. Furthermore, he got on the scoresheet himself after showing us he can still take up centre-forward positions at various stages during matches. However, we must remember the quality of opposition as Kyiv were once again far too easy to open up at the back, conceding eight goals in total across both legs.
Elsewhere in defence, rests for David Luiz (£5.9m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m) should see them come back into the side for Blank Gameweek 31 as Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) and Davide Zappacosta (£5.0m) took their places. The latter limped off and is now considered a doubt for the trip to Everton. Meanwhile, Antonio Rüdiger (£5.9m) played the whole match in Ukraine but should keep his place as his rest came in the first leg, where he was an unused substitute.
Any hopes of Chelsea’s young midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m) starting in Blank Gameweek 31 were dashed by their 90-minute outings on Thursday night. However, at least they have made some progress up the Blues’ pecking order in the mind of Maurizio Sarri. Loftus-Cheek’s three appearances outside the Premier League prior to the trip to Kyiv were from the substitutes bench. This was his first start since January and the first time he completed a match since before Christmas. As expected, Loftus-Cheek showed the drive in possession that Chelsea
The central midfield trio to start at Everton looks likely to feature usual suspects Jorginho (£4.6m), who played just 25 minutes in Ukraine, N’Golo Kanté (£5.0m), who registered 65 minutes and former Toffees man Ross Barkley (£5.1m), who was an unused substitute. Matteo Kovačić (£5.7m) played the full 90 so will likely feature only from the bench at Goodison Park.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Alonso, Christensen, Rüdiger, Zappacosta (Azpilicueta 69′); Loftus-Cheek, Kovačić, Kanté (Jorginho 65′); Willian (Pedro 74′), Giroud, Hudson-Odoi.
Arsenal 3-0 Rennes
Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang x2 (£10.8m), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m)
Assists: Aaron Ramsey (£7.1m), Aubameyang, Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m)
Fantasy managers should continue to take note of Arsenal’s increasing confidence in big fixtures at home. For the second time in the space of a week, the Gunners came through a pressure match in front of their own fans largely unscathed and with an impressive result. A 3-0 win over Rennes, after losing the first leg 3-1, put them into the quarter-finals of the Europa League just days after seeing off in-form Manchester United and condemning them to a first league defeat since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived as caretaker manager.
With Alexandre Lacazette‘s (£9.4m) three-match Europa League ban reduced to two shortly before Thursday’s second-leg, that meant that he was able to start alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) for the second match in a row. Now that Unai Emery has been able to pair the two up once again, it has helped transform Arsenal’s fortunes in these big games. Scoring relatively early in each one has been a huge factor to help them emerge from both matches with an aggregate score of 5-0.
“It’s given us big confidence, Sunday against Manchester United and today the same after this comeback. Our reaction is very good and playing under pressure is good. Growing up under pressure, like a team, feeling difficult moments and giving us our best performance in this moment. For us, today and Sunday we were competitive. I think it’s good confidence for us to feel that. After(wards), I am very demanding myself and I want to take better control with the ball and with possession. Against United and today, we lost the ball a bit and control of the match with the ball.” – Unai Emery
Aubameyang is now a suspension tightrope in the Europa League after he was booked for donning a Black Panther mask in celebrating his second goal. One more yellow card in this tournament would see the forward suspended for one match, which would be a huge blow to the Gunners’ chances of going all the way in the Europa League. However, it could be good news for Fantasy managers looking at Arsenal’s fixtures between Gameweek 34 and the end of the season, as having him as more of a confirmed starter for Watford (away), Crystal Palace (home), Leicester (away), Brighton (home) and Burnley (away).
After coming back from suspension earlier than expected, Lacazette received a booking in the 31st minute which could have been red in the eyes of some. Asked if he substituted him in the 70th minute for fear of losing him again, Emery explained he simply wanted to rotate his players.
“We decided one plan for 90 minutes because we knew we needed 90 minutes and maybe more because at 3-0 if they scored we were going to play extra-time. Iwobi and Mkhi deserved to play. When they supported us for the 30 minutes they helped us a lot. The 10 minutes after the changes, their impact was good with the goal and creating two chances. I think we need every player. Today the first XI was important, but also the players who came on during the match.” – Unai Emery
After performing very well against Manchester United, it was another excellent performance for Sead Kolašinac (£5.0m) on Thursday night. His advanced runs helped him register an assist for Aubameyang’s second goal and furthered his case to make the left-back spot his own, amid rumours that Arsenal are looking for a new signing in that position over the summer.
Aaron Ramsey (£7.1m) was a key individual once again, proving that he will be a big loss from next season onwards. In the last three matches in all competitions he now has two assists.
With no fixture in the FA Cup or Premier League this weekend, Arsenal are now not back in action until April 1, when they host Newcastle in Gameweek 32.
Arsenal XI (3-4-1-2): Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi; Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey (Torreira 87′), Maitland-Niles; Özil (Mkhitaryan 70′); Lacazette (Iwobi 70′), Aubameyang.