2. Gabriel Martinelli vs Reece James
Big changes await on both sides as it seems Gabriel Martinelli and Reece James will return from their long injury absences.
In truth, Martinelli already announced his comeback with a late, deflected winner off the bench against Manchester City before the break, but he will actually start at Chelsea and should cause them all manner of issues.
Although he has not yet sparked this campaign, the Brazil forward is now well-rested and can finally rekindle his partnership with Gabriel Jesus – a potent dynamic that will be crucial to unpicking the Blues’ strong defence.
An 11th-place standing only tells half the story as Chelsea have shown promise in 2023/24 and conceded just seven goals, while an xGA (Expected Goals Against) of 8.64 ranks third best in the Premier League – albeit behind second-best Arsenal at 6.55 (@xGPhilosophy on X).
This is partly explained by the conservative setup of their opposition, yet it also owes to their own compact structure and ability to protect the defence through deep positioning – something that could be undermined by James’ tendency to push forward.
Martinelli’s acceleration and security on the ball will test James’ defensive skills or perhaps hurt Chelsea as a collective if he is caught out of position, while the recovery speed needed to stop our transitional threat may even cause Pochettino to leave him out, lest he aggravate the full-back’s hamstring injury.
Continued on the next slide…