Frank Lampard has been trying to strike the right balance between defence and attack in the past couple of weeks but the Chelsea head coach must find equilibrium of a different sort for tonight’s game against Krasnodar.
On one hand it seems an ideal opportunity to rotate but it is also crucial to get their first win of the group stage against the lowest seed.
This is a step into the unknown for Chelsea. Krasnodar, hosting their first game in the competition after drawing away to Rennes last week, will be without up to nine players owing to a mix of injuries and illness, meaning a number of fringe players appearing in one of the biggest games in their short 12-year history.
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Chelsea were sounding all the right notes about not taking their hosts for granted but Lampard may not forgive himself if he makes too many switches and they fail to win.
It is a tricky one for a head coach who has a big squad with several players not in the reckoning who feel they should be more involved but there is also a need to respect the opponent and, more importantly, get three points.
“I didn’t have fantastic knowledge of them [before the draw],” Lampard said. “I was aware of them. As soon as we were drawn against them myself and my staff have been watching their games.
“We are very aware of them as a team, individual talents, the collective talents of the team and also aware they are a team that are new into the Champions League, which means they will have absolute motivation to play against a Premier League team to try to get a result so we are very focused on the game.”
Thiago Silva has stayed at home and reserve goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is injured but that aside Lampard has no fresh injury concerns.
Still, with several fringe players chomping at the bit, this seems the perfect opportunity to shuffle the pack.
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