Potter could hand Mudryk Chelsea debut at Liverpool
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Chelsea head coach Graham Potter looks set to shuffle his squad options once again with three changes expected ahead of their crunch clash with Liverpool on Saturday. The Blues will have their £88m new signing Mykhaylo Mudryk available for the lunchtime kick-off at Anfield and Potter has already hinted the Ukrainian is set to play some part to make his debut.
The 22-year-old arrived in a dramatic transfer last week after Chelsea stole a march on Arsenal to capture the winger from Shakhtar Donetsk, paying the second-highest fee in their history to land him on an eight-and-a-half-year contract. And Potter has been able to catch a glimpse of just how good Mudryk is in action after he joined up for training ahead of the game on Merseyside.
But with still 10 players unavailable for selection, Potter knows it will be on him to get his selection spot on after securing a vital win against Crystal Palace last time out. An unfavourable result against Liverpool could once again pile the pressure back on the 47-year-old’s shoulders with their chances of a top-four finish looking increasingly slim.
Express Sport looks at how Chelsea could line up ahead of a huge Premier League encounter at Anfield.
Goalkeeper – Arrizabalaga
Any grievances over Kepa Arrizabalaga’s performance against Fulham were soon swept away after a man of the match performance against Palace.
On several occasions the Spaniard kept the Eagles at bay and, without his strong display in goal, Potter may have been denied that elusive victory he so desperately needed.
With Edouard Mendy still out after undergoing surgery on a fractured finger, Arrizabalaga is the undisputed number one now.
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Defence – Chalobah, Silva, Badiashile, Cucurella
At the back, the only change that Potter could be tempted to make is to recall Marc Cucurella for Lewis Hall. The 18-year-old has made a seamless transition to the senior squad from youth football but a game of this experience may require a player of Cucurella’s defensive ability, with the Spaniard going up against the skilled Mohamed Salah.
Another new arrival, £34m signing Benoit Badiashile, is set to keep Kalidou Koulibaly out of the side after the Frenchman impressed on his full debut last time out and he should partner Thiago Silva at the back.
Trevoh Chalobah also looked more comfortable as a right-back on Sunday and the 23-year-old will be hoping to keep his place ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta, with Reece James not yet fit enough to start after getting back to full training.
Midfield – Gallagher, Jorginho, Kovacic
Potter looks set to revert to a three-man midfield against Liverpool to match up against Jurgen Klopp’s favoured lineup.
That means Conor Gallagher will be needed to partner Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in the centre of the pitch, as N’Golo Kante is still not match fit despite returning to training.
The 23-year-old will start again in light of Potter’s refusal to let him join Crystal Palace or Newcastle on loan, with Gallagher happy to remain as long as he gets first-team minutes.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be involved in some capacity after recovering from a hamstring injury, with Potter stating he is “a lot closer” to returning to action.
Attack – Mount, Havertz, Mudryk
Mudryk has not played a competitive fixture since Shakhtar Donetsk’s clash with Vorskla Poltava on November 23 and Potter knows that while he needs time to adapt and may not be ready for a full 90 minutes, he is ready to make his Chelsea bow.
“He hasn’t played so much football recently but has been training well,” Potter said at his pre-match press conference on Friday. “There’s a chance [he could make his debut at Anfield]. We’ve got to help everybody understand that he is coming from a different league and has to adapt.”
Mudryk will be pushing for a dream debut against Liverpool, who like Chelsea have been struggling domestically and are only ahead on goal difference in the Premier League table. He could replace Carney Chukwuemeka in the starting XI after the 19-year-old was handed a start in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Mudryk and Mount are poised to partner Kai Havertz in the attack after the German scored the winner against Palace. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Datro Fofana will be itching to take advantage, however, if the No 9 fails to impress.
Chelsea potential starting XI vs Liverpool: Arrizabalaga; Chalobah, Badiashile, Silva, Cucurella; Kovacic, Jorginho, Gallagher; Mount, Havertz, Mudryk.
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