Which academy players could be involved against Zagreb?

Chelsea’s fixture against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday is pretty much a dead rubber – the Blues have their first position in the Champions League Group Stage already confirmed. It’ll be a chance to rest the important players ahead of the massive game against Arsenal on the weekend. More importantly though, it’s the perfect opportunity to give a few academy players some very valuable minutes.

In our 2020/2021 Champions League success, Frank Lampard gave Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour their European debuts in the last game of the group stages – the exact same situation as we are in now. Graham Potter is known to rotate more, and he has an even busier schedule with the World Cup looming, so there really isn’t much excuse for the former Brighton manager.

Both Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour impressed on their Champions League debuts a few years ago…

Rules and Context

There’s a few rules and context points which I may as well go over to clear things up.

There is a List B for UEFA competitions, which can be updated by clubs throughout the season at any point. If they want to feature in the game on Wednesday, they need to be registered by midnight tomorrow (01/11/2022):

Clubs are entitled to register an unlimited number of players on List B during the season, but the list needs to be submitted no later than 24:00 CET the day before a match.

Lewis Hall and Charlie Webster (as well as Armando Broja) have already been registered on this list, so any other academy players who are set to be involved will need to be added to this list. However, it’s important to note that Omari Hutchinson CANNOT be added to this list and therefore won’t be able to feature on Wednesday for Chelsea. The reasoning is due to the following:

A player may be registered on List B if he is born on, or after, 1 January 2001 and has been eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA – or for a total of three consecutive years with a maximum of one loan period to a club from the same association for a period not longer than one year. Players aged 16 may be submitted if they have been registered with the club for the previous two years without interruption.

The man in form Omari Hutchinson is ineligible to play on Wednesday sadly…

It’s a massive shame since he’s been by far the standout player in the academy this season, but unlike Carney Chukwuemeka he wasn’t registered on List A and won’t be able to play in the competition until the knockout stages (where the registration window opens once again for List A).

Some other general academy context is that the U21s had a game on Sunday evening, hence there was very little involvement in the first team training session today (Monday). The two pictured to have been involved were Silko Thomas (RWB/Winger) who didn’t play last night and Zak Sturge (LWB) who only got a few minutes from the bench. I suspect that tomorrow’s session will consist of more academy players, or at least I hope so.

It’s also important to note that the U19s will have a game on the same day in the UEFA Youth League, but with Chelsea already being out of the competition it’s not like they will need the experience of Webster or Hall for example, and may want to give opportunities to some of the younger players. Some of them have been on international duty with England over the last few days, so it’s going to be fascinating as to how the club manage each of the squads on Wednesday.

So…who could be involved?

I’d be pretty gutted if one of Bashir Humphreys or Alfie Gilchrist (both CBs) didn’t start for Chelsea. Assuming Azpilicueta is guaranteed to start, in either a four or five at the back formation, there’s still two CB options open. Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah absolutely need a rest as any injury to them could destroy the whole season. If it’s a 5 at the back, he could play Cucurella and Koulibaly next to Azpi but the Senegalese’s defender fitness is still unknown and I think it’d be a massive risk to start him. If it’s a 4 at the back, I can’t see Cucurella playing at CB so that opens up a slot for one of Bashir or Alfie – as well as 4atb utilising the midfield and attack better where we are much more stacked. Josh Brooking is one who has trained with the first team a few times under Graham, but I have a feeling he’s got a small knock as he would’ve been in training today.

One of Bashir Humphreys or Alfie Gilchrist should be starting…

Reece James’ injury has pretty much reduced any quality on the right-hand side in both attacking and defensive sense. Azpilicueta clearly isn’t too favoured by Potter and we all know he’s a bit past it, and the Loftus-Cheek/Pulisic shifts at wing-back haven’t been too successfull either. If he does decide to go with a 5, Dion Rankine (RWB) simply has to play. He’s been excellent at wingback this season under Mark Robinson, and has really matured as a player in the last few years. It’s an easy comparison to make, but his blistering pace and some of the tricks he likes to pull out really does remind you of some of the things Tariq Lamptey was doing in our academy.

Is Dion Rankine our solution to our struggles at RB/RWB?

I don’t think we can expect many other players in the starting lineup. As much as I’d like to see more than one or two, Potter does also have to keep his squad players happy and I suspect the likes of Zakaria, Ziyech, Chukwuemeka, Aubameyang/Broja and Chilwell are all guaranteed to start while we could still easily see the likes of Gallagher, Pulisic, Jorginho and even Mount play for confidence.

There still should be some more on the bench though with a view of coming on as a substitute. Lewis Hall (midfielder) has had first team experience before under Thomas Tuchel, and his versatility (has played at LCB and LWB before) may give him the nudge over someone like Charlie Webster (midfielder), who still very much should be getting some minutes with the quality he has. Ben Elliott is a midfielder/forward who would fit Potter’s system really well in my opinion, and he’s really thrived in the 21s so far. Not being able to play for the U19s may actually be an advantage in that sense for him.

Some talented midfielers in this picture…

Predicted Lineups

Here’s just a couple of lineups that I think Potter could go ahead with. I’m going to assume Koulibaly and Chukwuemeka are both fit enough to start, and that there are no other issues:

I also very much realise Potter could do the second lineup with Loftus-Cheek or a winger instead of Rankine… :/

I don’t think there are any other academy players who I’m missing. Let me know if I am on any of our social platforms and make sure to follow us for more academy related content! I should be getting an update tomorrow on the squad for Wednesday so stay tuned…

Written by Paree