By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer
Champions of Europe Chelsea begin the defence of their title at home on Tuesday, as they welcome Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg to Stamford Bridge.
Thomas Tuchel rung the changes for the Premier League clash against Aston Villa on Saturday and won’t have been overly pleased with his side’s performance, even if they did run out 3-0 winners. The Chelsea boss will be expecting a much better showing against Zenit, as the Blues look to protect their European crown.
On the injury front, N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic are still out, but Tuchel has confirmed that England defender Ben Chilwell is in contention for the game, after a disappointing Euros and start to the season. He could replace Marcos Alonso at left wing back, who’s enjoyed an unexpected upturn in form since Frank Lampard left.
New signing Saul Niguez was thrust into the starting eleven against Villa, but was subbed off at half time following a torrid first 45 minutes. He’ll be hoping for another opportunity to make his mark at Stamford Bridge in a game where he’s likely to get more time on the ball than you’d expect in the Premier League. Having come from La Liga, this is a game that could suit him.
Thomas Tuchel has been speaking to the BBC and has made a concerted effort to ward off any signs of complacency after a perfect Champions League campaign last year:
“The most important thing is not to look back, but keep the feeling and the hunger. It is addictive, this game is about winning because it changes the atmosphere and feeling and gives you natural confidence."
Chelsea are the clear favourites for this game, which is reflected in an offering of just 3 points for a home win. You’ll get 45 for predicting a draw and if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can bag yourself 90 by backing Zenit.