Maurizio Sarri could not have asked for a better start to his English career. The Italian manager has won each of his first five league games with Chelsea, but it is now time for him to turn his attention to the Europa League. Chelsea stands at the top of the league table and might not be too worried about their chances in the European competition. But it is a chance to lift a trophy in his first season for Sarri, who should not take the competition lightly.
The Blues face Greek club PAOK, who have won each of their first three games in their domestic league. But Chelsea have enough quality in them to get all three points from this game and Sarri should settle for nothing less.
In early team news, the Blues are still without the services of Marco van Ginkel and Isaiah Brown, both of whom are long-term absentees. Mateo Kovacic, Emerson Palmieri and Cesc Fabregas would all be assessed before this game on Thursday. Ruben Loftus-Cheek continues to struggle with a shin injury and could miss this tie.
Expected lineup (4-3-3):
Willy Caballero is the backup option for Chelsea to Kepa Arrizabalaga in the first team. The Argentine would get his first start of the season in this Europa League tie. Both David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger could be rested as Gary Cahill, and Thomas Christensen have enough quality to keep the Greek side quiet. They should start in the centre-back roles in this tie.
Davide Zappacosta came off the bench at the weekend against Cardiff City. He could start in a right-back role while Emerson Palmieri, who is expected to be back from an injury for this game, could take his place at left-back in this tie.
Mateo Kovacic missed the last game with an illness but should be back in action this week. He could start as the deepest of the midfielders for the Blues against PAOK. Ross Barkley, who also started from the bench at the weekend would play in a slightly advanced midfield role while Cesc Fabregas, who is expected to be back in action soon, could take his place in the middle of the park, adding some creativity to this Chelsea side. If either Kovacic or Fabregas is not fit, Danny Drinkwater could fill in for them.
Alvaro Morata was an unused substitute against the Blue Birds. He will get his chance to impress this week as revealed by the manager, and could lead the line for the Blues. Willian, who came off the bench in that game, could start on the right flank while young Callum Hudson-Odoi deserves to start this game on the left flank.
Here is how they might line up:
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