Al Hilal v Chelsea: Match Preview, Team News, Predicted starting XIs & results, plus much more!
The Blues are set to kick off their Club World Cup campaign tonight against Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal SFC
Thomas Tuchel’s men will be looking to complete the trophy cabinet at the Stamford Bridge as they look to undo what happened almost a decade ago against Brazilian side Corinthians.
Chelsea will be coming in with low confidence into this game as they just barely scraped past Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup 4th round, and have had a turbulent time in the league recently.
FT: Chelsea 2-1 Plymouth Argyle
An FA Cup Classic. A hard fought battle for Chelsea. It wasn't pretty but we got the job done. 3 Spaniards, Azpi, Alonso and Kepa Arrizabalaga the heroes.
An important victory but Chelsea know they must be better in the Club World Cup. pic.twitter.com/bX4yjqfEyz
— CfcSheikh (@CfcSheikh) February 5, 2022
With issues such as jet lag and weather conditions coming into play, the Blues would be foolish to take any opponent in this tournament as pushovers.
Regardless, the sheer difference in quality between the two sides should allow Chelsea to overcome this challenge and make their way into the final.
The AFC Champions will also be going into this looking to pull off a miraculous upset against the reigning European Champions tonight.
Al Hilal themselves sit 4th in the Saudi Pro League, having won only 3 of their last 5 games, including a draw and loss.
Venue: Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium
Time: 4:30 pm (GMT)
Referee: Cesar Ramos
Ben Chilwell will be out of the game as per usual till the end of this season due to the partial ACL injury he picked up earlier last year, and required surgery to completely heal from it.
Reece James was a surprise addition to the squad that traveled to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup but it was later confirmed by Zsolt Low that he won’t be partaking in the tournament.
Tuchel on team news: "Not Reece James and not Ben Chilwell. Not Ruben Loftus-Cheek. They are still injured. Everyone else was training except Thiago and Pulisic [because of international duty]. Everyone else was there."
— Adam Newson (@AdamNewson) February 4, 2022
The Blues will also be missing their coach Thomas Tuchel due to Covid-19 and has been replaced with Arno Michels in his stead, however online communication with the German will remain robust.
On the other hand, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will be travelling to Abu Dhabi for the game, however the chances of him being match ready due to Senegal’s AFCON victory and celebrations is unlikely.
Saved two penalties in Super Cup to defeat Villarreal.
Saved a penalty in League Cup 3rd round to defeat Villa.
Saved penalty in FA Cup 4th round to defeat Plymouth.
Kepa has been huge for Chelsea this season 😍 pic.twitter.com/QUqFAYkkbX
— Sporting Index (@sportingindex) February 7, 2022
Mason Mount also has some fitness issues due to the game on the weekend, meanwhile Low declared Loftus-Cheek will be unavailable too.
There is a decent chance that Jorginho may also not feature, or at least not start the game as he played all 120 minutes on the weekend and may have some travelling fatigue as well.
This is the first occasion that these two clubs are coming head to head against each other in history.
Predicted Starting XI
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Silva; Alonso, Kante, Kovacic, Ziyech; Mount, Lukaku, Havertz
Al Hilal SFC 1 – 3 Chelsea
While there are some travelling issues as well as injuries problems alongside the Blues missing their gaffer on the sidelines, it is still expected that they will end up dominating the game.
With Romelu Lukaku out there to prove a point since the Belgian has had a patch of a few bad games recently.
On the flip side, Hakim Ziyech has been in stunning form lately and will hope to replicate it in this game, all the while show Morocco’s national team manager what he’s missing.
Predicted XI: Chelsea’s possible lineup against Brentford
Chelsea are back in Premier League action today, following the two-week international break. The Blues are readying to host Brentford – who are among the seven teams scrapping to stay in the League – at Stamford Bridge. Here, we will take a look at Chelsea’s possible lineup against Brentford.
Chelsea are staring down the barrel of tough fixtures this month. With Champions League quarter-final fixture against Real Madrid coming up just 3 days following today’s clash, Thomas Tuchel is presented with a tough test of picking the team for Brentford.
Tuchel will undoubtedly consider Wednesday’s meeting with Real Madrid while navigating the selection headache, suggesting that the key players will likely be rested. Despite that, Tuchel has great cause for optimism as the season draws to its close considering the amount of good options available in the sqaud.
Thomas Tuchel is no stranger to a selection curveball in big games considering Chelsea’s injury and COVID-19 disruptions this season, which inevitably caused them to fall behind in the title race but luckily, the only fitness concern he currently has to contend with is Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi‘s long-term injuries.
Besides the two guaranteed absentees, Christian Pulisic will also miss today’s game as confirmed by Thomas Tuchel in his pre-match conference. Tuchel admitted Pulisic didn’t train with the squad after returning from international duty with the USMNT.
“For Christian, we have to decide. He didn’t train today. We gave him a recovery session,” Tuchel said.
“He was here but very tired with the jet lag and time difference. So we have to figure out of it makes sense to play him tomorrow and for how many minutes.”
Reece James will be in contention to play today’s fixture after returning to fitness following another hamstring injury. James was involved in full training ahead of today’s fixture, however, his selection is still uncertain as it’s likely Tuchel wouldn’t want to rush him back to action too soon and could instead preserve him for next week’s Real Madrid clash.
Thiago Silva is also expected to feature in today’s clash despite traveling with Brazil. Thomas Tuchel was confident about his availability. The blues boss said;
“Thiago is a bit different to Christian, I have to say. Thiago did not play the third match with Brazil, came back one day earlier and had not the same jet lag as Christian.
“Thiago was here yesterday and trained today, feels very good so he is available tomorrow”.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Mendy; Christensen/Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James/Kovačić, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Havertz, Werner.
The official team news will be posted an hour before the kick-off time.
Updates from Cobham: Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James return to training ahead of Brentford clash
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have been on and off from training due to injury challenges but were spotted at Cobham yesterday to prepare for Brentford
According to Chelsea’s official website, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James were seen training alongside other teammates, readying themselves for a potential feature in the upcoming Brentford fixture.
Injury crisis is a leading concern in physical sports. When it comes to football, injuries can greatly impact team performance as it can leave even key players sidelined for days, consequently damaging the team’s chances of success.
Just like any other team, Chelsea also fell victim to injury troubles, due to which, they endured an alarming slump – Plaguing the entire squad and adding misery to the club’s title hopes this season. Thomas Tuchel has been dealing with continuous injury and COVID-19 disruptions since the start of December.
That is when Reece James was condemned to an unfortunate injury that saw him withdrawn from the squad for quite a while. Since Tuchel’s system is largely dependent on the strategic use of his wing-backs, having to compromise on James and Chilwell’s crucial skills saw Chelsea drop from first to third in the Premier League.
The defender recently returned to first-team after recovering from a long spell of hamstring injury, however, he was reinjured following the Burnley clash during the starting week of March and has been absent from training since.
Upon examination, it was declared that James had sustained yet another hamstring injury, but fortunately, it wasn’t a repeat to the same leg and wasn’t as bad either. But, the player was advised to rest for 2 weeks initially, which was later extended to three.
Reece James was also called to represent England internationally during the break, however, Chelsea’s medical team didn’t see him fit and advised against his selection.
Callum Hudson-Odoi on the other hand, has been out of training, on and off, due to an Achilles injury. CHO hasn’t played since the win at Luton Town on 2nd March.
However, both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have now returned to fitness and will be in contention to start against Brentford this Saturday.
Additionally, Hakim Ziyech, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Malang Sarr, Romelu Lukaku and Ruben Loftus Cheek were also snapped training for the upcoming fixtures.
'Very, very good guys!' 👏 pic.twitter.com/8lDiza3613
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 30, 2022
Jorginho, who was representing Italy in the World Cup qualifiers, was also among those training at Cobham as he was sent back early after Italy’s defeat.
Chelsea have key fixtures coming up in the month of April including Premier League, Champions League as well as FA Cup games. It’s going to be a tough challenge for the club to navigate considering the fixture congestion, hence, having all players fit to start will be a boost for Thomas Tuchel.
Team news ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League encounter with Lille on Wednesday
Thomas Tuchel provided team news in today’s press-conference ahead of Chelsea’s upcoming Champions League fixture
Thomas Tuchel revealed some team news in today’s live press-conference ahead of Chelsea’s next Champions League encounter. Kai Havertz also talked to the media.
Chelsea are set to prepare for a trip to Northern France tomorrow, where they will face Lille in Champions League round of 16, second leg. The blues have a 2-goal aggregate advantage over Lille from the first leg, and will look to claw their way to the Champions League summit, in the obvious hopes of retaining their European crown.
Kai Havertz, who has been in glittering form for Chelsea recently, was one of the players to register himself on the scoresheet through a header, early on into the first leg clash against Lille. Following him, was Christian Pulisic, who also recorded a beautiful finish for Chelsea, assisted by N’Golo Kante, finally sealing the game.
The Blues now look forward to booking their spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League by producing yet another top performance to finish the job against their counterparts.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are expected to start as confirmed by Thomas Tuchel in today’s press conference.
Azpilicueta was called off against Norwich after the defender complained of stomach issues. He sat out the Newcastle United game as well, but is reportedly fit now to feature in the upcoming match.
Marcos Alonso, who was out on account of covid-19, was also seen back on the bench for Chelsea against Newcastle United on Sunday. Him, along with Azpilicueta, will be featuring a start in the Champions League fixture on Wednesday as well.
Reece James and Callum Hudson Odoi, however, are huge doubts. Reece James was recently reinjured, owing to a hamstring injury, while Hudson Odoi had been battling a reported Achilles injury. Hence, their availability remains uncertain as of now.
“I think Marcos is ready to start, Azpi is ready to start. We will try to have Reece and Callum later in training but will be a very tight race. We will take this decision after the training session. They were not involved. Let’s see if it is worth the risk, it will be very tight with these two.” – Chelsea Boss, Thomas Tuchel in today’s press-conference
Follow the details of the press-conference by clicking here
Acknowledging Lille’s recent recapturing of form in domestic matches, Thomas Tuchel said;
“To be honest, I think they played well at Stamford Bridge. They were very physical, attacked high up the pitch. It was impressive. They had a good pressing game, were very brave, and had the mentality they had nothing to lose”,
“They will play an attacking 4-4-2 that is aggressive, fluid and direct. We’ll have to be ready for that. But we are also confident in ourselves. It’s half time right now. No match is decided by a 2-0 scoreline. The second half is tomorrow and we’ll have to produce another top performance. I think Lille played on Friday so they’ve had a good amount of time to recover. That is why we have to be ready physically and mentally for a tough game”.
Lille have a little advantage of 2 day’s rest over the Blues, as they have had congested Premier League fixtures. However, Tuchel’s side are known to thrive on chaos. They are no strangers to pressure and have navigated through even tougher challenges; especially the one currently prevailing them. Despite their off-pitch woes, their attention and focus ramain on winning matches as shown in their recent unbeaten run.