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How Chelsea could line up for their first game back

Sports Mole looks at how Chelsea could line up for their first match back after lockdown, with a host of players available again after shaking off fitness concerns.

Chelsea will resume their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League when top-flight action gets back underway after an enforced break of 100 days later this month.

Frank Lampard's side went into lockdown having won just two of their previous seven league games, allowing Manchester United in fifth to close the gap to just three points.

The Blues will be hopeful that the break in play has allowed them to stop the rot and start afresh when they visit relegation-threatened Aston Villa in their first game back, which is expected to take place over the weekend of June 19-21.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how they could line up for that contest.



CHEXI

Out: Marco van Ginkel (knee), Jorginho (suspended)
Doubtful: N'Golo Kante (coronavirus concerns)

The break in play has actually been fairly kind to Chelsea on the injury front, with a host of players having been able to shake off knocks and niggles during their time off.

When this match was originally scheduled to be played, the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and N'Golo Kante were all at least doubts due to injuries which have now cleared up.

The latter two remain doubtful for other reasons - Hudson-Odoi has been involved in off-field troubles during lockdown while Kante's reservations over returning to action have been well documented, and he is therefore likely to miss the restart.

Lampard's midfield options are further hit by Jorginho's suspension for picking up 10 yellow cards prior to lockdown, which means that there could be another starting opportunity for Billy Gilmour, who earned so much praise for his performances immediately before play was stopped.

Mateo Kovacic has also been one of Chelsea's top performers this season and is likely to start in the middle of the park alongside Ross Barkley.

Abraham's return to fitness should see him lead the line despite Olivier Giroud working his way back into Lampard's thinking, while Willian may only have a handful of games left in a Chelsea shirt and will be keen to go out with a bang if that is the case.

Lampard has often played with a back three this season following the emergence of Reece James and that will be an option again for the trip to Villa Park, but if he opts for a back four then Cesar Azpilicueta will shift out to the right.

The future of Kepa Arrizabalaga beyond the next transfer window remains uncertain, meanwhile, but the Spaniard did earn his starting spot back just before lockdown and may be preferred to Willy Caballero again.

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Chelsea's N'Golo Kante in action on February 1, 2020
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