Chelsea vs BATE : Chelsea travel to BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday with the Premier League club striving for victory in Belarus. The Blues lead Group L with a 100 per cent record, and BATE still harbour ambitions of a qualification berth as they chase second place.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri could opt to rotate his options with his side in a superior position, but the visitors are aware a slip at the Borisov Arena could complicate their path to the knockouts. Sarri has quickly imposed his style on Chelsea since arriving from Italy, and the Blues have developed into a team that attack with intent.
Eden Hazard has been the star of the show for the former Napoli boss since the start of the campaign, but Sarri has empowered many in his selection.
Chelsea are unbeaten since losing the FA Community Shield 2-0 to Manchester City. Thirteen wins in 16 games in all competition tells its own story.
BATE gave a good account of themselves at Stamford Bridge in the corresponding fixture, but a hat-trick from Ruben Loftus-Cheek secured the points for the west London side.
The Belarusian team are running away with their domestic league and are 14 points clear of the chasing pack. This advantage could aid them as they rest and rotate in an attempt to reach the round of 32.
The gulf in class is obvious, but BATE will be hoping their illustrious opponents suffer a bad day at the office on their travels.
Hazard has been recovering from injury, and despite being fully fit, his manager has broken him back into the team slowly from the substitutes bench.
According to Simon Johnson of the London Evening Standard, the Belgian superstar could be given the night off, with Sarri allowing Hazard further time to recover from a back issue.
Loftus-Cheek has struggled to make the starting XI in the Premier League, but his European performances could see him given a vital role in Belarus.
The England international has started twice in the Europa League this term, and the 22-year-old desperately needs playing time after a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace last term.
Vaishali Bhardwaj of the London Evening Standard highlighted the player’s performance against BATE in October:
Chelsea should breeze through this encounter, allowing Sarri a chance to throw fresh faces into his selection. But with the teams below the Blues all level on points, BATE will be intent on finding a big performance against the English giants.