Chelsea travel to Yorkshire on Sunday afternoon to face Leeds for the latest edition of a historically spiky rivalry.
While no one in the modern game contains quite the same steel as Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Thomas Tuchel’s Blues duked out an explosive encounter with Tottenham just last weekend. Such was the boiling fury at Stamford Bridge, the wiry German received his marching orders following a handshake staring contest at the final whistle.
Here’s the XI Tuchel may send out against Leeds while he serves his suspension this coming weekend.
GK: Edouard Mendy – While Chelsea were winning the Premier League title in 2014/15, Mendy spent that season living off unemployment benefits, without a club, while his brother helped him keep his reflexes sharp in the local park.
CB: Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea’s new hierarchy has been accused of taking a ‘Football Manager’ approach to the transfer market. Although, this idea of cherrypicking the continent’s best talents doesn’t line up with Azpilicueta’s experience of the game as he always failed to recruit his real-life Chelsea teammates when he virtually took charge of Osasuna.
CB: Thiago Silva – The Brazilian’s outspoken wife, Belle, attended last Sunday’s draw against Spurs but came away questioning the redecoration, asking (via Twitter): “But I don’t see a photo of @tsilva3 anywhere. Why @ChelseaFC?”
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – ‘Special K’, ‘The Wall’, ‘K2’, Koulibaly has acquired a raft of nicknames in a playing career which has garnered even more praise.
RWB: Reece James – The wing-back opened his account for the new season last weekend after a dry spell to conclude the previous campaign, scoring just one Premier League goal after Halloween.
CM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – After an impressive interpretation of a complex hybrid role against Spurs which saw Loftus-Cheek switch between wingback and the number ten role, the Chelsea academy graduate may be granted a more familiar and orthodox position this week.
CM: Jorginho – With Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante sidelined by injury for the coming weeks, Jorginho may become increasingly integral to Tuchel’s team.
LWB: Marc Cucurella – Like a modern-day Samson, Cucurella has vowed to ‘never’ cut his hair despite Cristian Romero’s tug on his mane last weekend.
RW: Kai Havertz – The avid animal welfare enthusiast has a special place in his heart for a creature his family saved from the slaughterhouse. “For me, it always feels great being able to run alongside a donkey who you know would have died without your help,” Havertz explained.
ST: Raheem Sterling – Tuchel provided a fascinating insight into what he looks for in a forward when he revealed that Sterling’s running stats – specifically ‘his intensity, high-speed intensity, over 30km an hour, and the amount of repetitive intensity’ – were as attractive as his goalscoring figures.
LW: Mason Mount – A player that Tuchel describes as ‘the full package’ has directly contributed to six goals in his last half-dozen Premier League appearances away from home (four goals, two assists).