Four decisions for Maurizio Sarri ahead of Chelsea clash with Arsenal

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Can Sarri mastermind victory over Arsenal? (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

With the Premier League keen to spread its reputation as the most competitive division in club football across Europe and beyond, Maurizio Sarri must be wondering if there has been a typo along the way.

The FA Cup holders strolled to an opening day win over Huddersfield Town – but his honeymoon period ends this weekend as the Blues welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge.

Despite the comfortable win over Huddersfield, there is plenty for Sarri to consider ahead of the visit of Unai Emerys new-look side, particularly around his team selection as he strives to identify his first choice XI.

Who will Eden Hazard replace?

Hazard made a cameo appearance for Chelsea at Huddersfield Town. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

A 14-minute cameo at the Kirklees Stadium provides a strong indicator that Hazard will be ready to take on Arsenal this weekend.

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The run-out was punctuated by the assist for Pedros late goal which underlined the comfortable win, and it now remains to be seen what role he will have for the second game of Chelseas season.

Hazard replaced Willian late on at Huddersfield, and with Pedro having scored in the 3-0 success the Brazilian or Alvaro Morata could be replaced, should Sarri deem him fit enough to start.

Sarri accepted that Hazard was not fit enough to play 90 minutes against David Wagners side and needed a full week of training before a decision can be made on his role against Arsenal.

He played a key role in Belgium finishing third at the World Cup in the summer, scoring three goals and registering two assists in his six outings – leading to an extended holiday prior to the new season.

Will Ross Barkley retain his place?

Barkley is aiming to reignite his Chelsea career. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Many would be forgiven for forgetting that Ross Barkley was even a Chelsea player after he failed to make any sort of impact last season after his January move from Everton.

He ended up making just four appearances in all competitions due to a long-term hamstring injury but a full pre-season has raised hopes he can have a belated impact in west London.

Barkley was partnered alongside NGolo Kante and summer signing Jorginho on Saturday and the dynamic worked well as Chelsea eased to victory, as the aforementioned pair both got on the scoresheet.

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But the clash with Arsenal is a stern test of both his fitness and his adaption to Sarris philosophy.

Has he earned the opportunity to test himself against a higher calibre of opponent, or will Ruben Loftus-Cheek – who impressed with Crystal Palace last season – be given the nod?

Mateo Kovacic is also waiting in the wings for his debut after completing a deadline day loan move from Real Madrid, and could offer some additional creative edge.

Can Alvaro Morata survive another blunt display?

Chelseas attack has looked blunt with Morata in toe. (Getty Images)

The Spaniard has netted one Premier League goal since last December and at Huddersfield showed little sign of ending that run.

Sarri has backed Morata to come good but many Chelsea fans are losing patience, and another insipid display will not be tolerated particularly on such a big occasion.

Another week in training for Hazard and Olivier Giroud will surely be enough to convince Sarri that Morata should be dropped, but who will come in?

Giroud has not kicked a ball since the World Cup final in July and would be a risk to play from the start, leaving Hazard open to return and play through the middle.

And if the Belgian can impress it will further hurt Moratas hopes of establishing himself in Sarris first team, after his failings under Antonio Conte.

Can David Luiz be trusted against Arsenals attack?

Luiz could be targetted by Arsenal this weekend. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

David Luiz last telling contribution for Chelsea came in a back three as the club won the Premier League title under Conte in the 2016-17 season.


But the Brazilian has barely featured for the club since and made his first top flight start since February – when Watford thrashed them 4-1 – in the win at Huddersfield.

Having kept the Terriers at bay, Luiz faces an altogether different challenge when Arsenal make the short journey across the city.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil will likely make up the Arsenal attack and be charged with breaking down the Sarri back-four.

The more dependable Antonio Rudiger will likely be his partner and it could be a busy afternoon for the German if Luiz cannot rise to the occasion.

More: Arsenal FC

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