Chelsea team news: Expected XI vs Zenit with key man dropped after Thomas Tuchel criticism

Chelsea travel to Zenit on Wednesday having already qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

However, boss Thomas Tuchel will want a positive response following Saturday’s 3-2 Premier League defeat by West Ham. 

The Blues secured their passage to the next round of the European competition after thrashing Juventus 4-0.  

Tuchel’s side are trying to defend the title having sensationally beaten Manchester City in last season’s edition of the tournament.  

Chelsea can top Group H with a win in Russia and potentially set up a favourable second-round tie.  

Here, Express Sport picks a possible lineup – with one regular star dropped after criticism from Tuchel. 

Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga

Tuchel conceded that Edouard Mendy was partially to blame for the defeat by the Hammers.  

The goalkeeper conceded a penalty after failing to control a back-pass before fouling Bowen. He then left a huge gap at his near post which allowed Arthur Masuaku to score from range. 

“Everybody is involved, the pass is not the best decision to pass this ball back,” Tuchel told Sky Sports. 

“The orientation is not the back but we can still save it but the decision making from Edu [Edouard] is also not the best in this moment.” 

Tuchel might then choose to hand Kepa a rare appearance in the Chelsea goal.  

The Spaniard has appeared just four times this term but with the Blues already through, could be given another opportunity to impress. 

Chelsea looked worryingly poor at the back on Saturday. However, Tuchel surely won’t make drastic changes.  

James could continue on the right. Tuchel suggested that Hudson-Odoi could be used at left wing-back after Ben Chilwell’s knee injury, and the England star might now get that chance now that Marcos Alonso has a back issue.   

Thiago Silva scored the opener against West Ham but Tuchel might want to ease the 37-year-old in and out of the side over the busy festive schedule.  

Cesar Azpilicueta would be the likeliest to come back in for the Brazilian, especially as it’s unclear how long Trevoh Chalobah might be out for.

Midfielders: Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Tuchel is heading into the busy winter schedule with a mini midfield crisis.  

Mateo Kovacic will be out for “five or six weeks”, the German confirmed ahead of the West Ham game.  

N’Golo Kante continues to miss out with a knee injury he suffered in the 4-0 win over Juventus last month.  

That could mean that Loftus-Cheek earns another chance to play in midfield.  

Third-placed Ballon d’Or star Jorginho will likely continue alongside. 

Attack: Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Romelu Lukaku

It is in attack where Tuchel could make the most changes. 

American winger Pulisic has started just once since returning from an ankle injury that kept him out for three months.  

Likewise, Lukaku is yet to begin a game since suffering a similar injury against Malmo in October.  

The 28-year-old has featured as a substitute in the last three matches and Tuchel could see this as the perfect opportunity to ramp up the Belgian’s return.