Rotated Chelsea can pass first Europa League test
Blues back-up players are still world class
BT Sport 2, 5.55pm Thursday
Maurizio Sarri is the man who oversaw Napoli’s early Champions League exit last season and subsequent last-32 demise in the Europa League, yet he insists he wants to win everything that Chelsea enter this term.
Whether you take the Italian at his word or not will determine if you believe the red-hot Blues are bankers in Thessaloniki against PAOK.
After five straight league wins, culminating in a 4-1 thrashing of Cardiff, maintaining that winning feeling makes sense but he is likely to make plenty of changes for the showdown at the Toumba Stadium with a Premier League dust-up against West Ham coming up on Sunday.
Eden Hazard and other stars will be given the night off and Chelsea will be weaker accordingly.
PAOK were runners-up in the Super League and Greek Cup winners last season under Mircea Lucescu’s son, Razvan and they are a club on the up.
In this year’s Champions League they beat Basel and Spartak Moscow, winning both home ties, before drawing 1-1 at Benfica in the playoff round. But with one foot in the group stage they folded 4-1 at home.
There is a passionate home crowd to impress and maybe the stakes were too high for some of Lucescu’s men.
This game is not so vital, although Lucescu will pick a strong side and they are in good form, having won their opening three league matches.
This looks a tricky test for Chelsea, though some of Sarri’s back-up players are world class. They should be able to fashion a victory, though it may be closer than many think.
Chelsea to win by one goal
1pt 5-2 bet365, Sky Bet
Right-back Leo Matos is suspended.
Mateo Kovacic is a doubt. Eden Hazard heads the list of first-choice players set for a rest.
PAOK have kept only two clean sheets in their last ten home games.
Read Racing Post Sport every day for no-nonsense previews and expert sports betting tips
Follow us on Twitter @racingpostsport