Frank Lampard’s team selection for Chelsea’s first game back after the international break is likely to be as tough to predict as any this season.
With Lampard having spoken at length about managing the workload of players, several big names could easily be left out against Newcastle on Saturday with Lampard’s main fear being causing muscle injuries while players are fatigued.
Winger Christian Pulisic is not yet fit to return and Thiago Silva is set to be rested, but both are high in the category of players the Blues boss is mindful of needing to look after.
The goalkeeper has few such worries but Edouard Mendy’s inclusion is one of very few predictable selections for the early kick-off.
Reece James was banned for two of England’s three games so seems to be favourite to edge out Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back while on the other flank, Ben Chilwell is expected to be fit after being injured while away.
Kurt Zouma was always a likely starter and even more so now given Silva’s absence. Andreas Christensen is the obvious Silva replacement but Antonio Rudiger is also now back in the mix as is Fikayo Tomori.
The midfield brings many a complication, with N’Golo Kante’s injury worries a concern. But leaving out the key man in midfield may well be too much for Lampard.
Lampard’s “go-to”man Mason Mount is another due some respite from the domestic hurly-burly. He played all three of England’s international matches but is so crucial to Lampard’s way of playing, bringing both energy and quality that it would be a big call – and a reluctant one at that – to omit him against the Geordies.
But Jorginho is also available and Mateo Kovacic was a standout performer for Croatia but has had limited game time this season so could well replace one of Kante or Mount if Lampard goes down that route.
Timo Werner has a fifth consecutive goalscoring Blues appearance in his sights but with Tammy Abraham also impressing, the German could continue to play out wide to accommodate the England striker, with Hakim Ziyech continuing on the other wing, but Callum Hudson-Odoi is another option.
Expected Chelsea line-up: Mendy, James, Zouma, Christensen, Chilwell, Jorginho, Kante, Mount, Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi, Werner.