Fresh off advancement to the Champions League semifinal and the FA Cup final, Chelsea has a make up game against Brighton. It will be the first match in a 34 day slog that will last at least nine matches and probably 10 (depending on MD 37 and the FA Cup final shake out around one another).
It would be disingenuous to say that Brighton is “easy”, but Chelsea may have no better moment to rotate in mass the coming weeks. Brighton sits 16th in the table and though they are statistical juggernauts on par with the top four, they have struggled mightily to turn probability into performance. Chelsea should have the depth to rotate and get past a side that is practically safe from relegation but still very close to the battle.
Three areas are in the most desperate need of rotation, but one of those Thomas Tuchel has already been very good about rotating. Wing back is easily the most demanding position in a 3-4-2-1 and they simply cannot play more than two matches a week. Marcos Alonso, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all played in nearly equal measure depending on the opponent’s style. So long as Tuchel continues keeping an eye on them, they will be fine to see out the season and get through the coming slog.
The front three also see themselves rotated heavily, with a small asterisk attached. Tuchel tends to rotate the front three only after they have become pretty fatigued. It is understandable given he is trying to get chemistry going up top and that takes games together, but it can’t come at the expense of their fitness in the final stretch.
He rotated the front three against Manchester City, bringing Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner in. If Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, and Mason Mount is the current “best” three, then the only one that will need to come out from the City match will be Mount. That will prove tricky given his importance to the side but it wouldn’t hurt to give someone else a chance for the day so Mount can rest for harder matches to come.
The biggest area of concern is the midfield pair. With Mateo Kovacic injured, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante have had to go the distance more often than not. Mount, Ziyech, and Havertz have all dropped in late to give one or the other a rest, but those are makeshift options to try to extend the current shelf life of the two midfielders.
Luckily, Chelsea does have Billy Gilmour who finally made a bench against Manchester City. If that is an indication that he is getting closer to Tuchel’s first team, than Brighton should be the moment so one of Kante or Jorginho can rest.
The back three and keeper spots are less of a concern. Though the wider centerbacks do tend to get up and down the pitch a bit, it is in a minimal way that will spare them of the same fatigue their more attacking colleagues will acquire. Thiago Silva may be the only concern but Tuchel has shown he can rotate as needed and keep things consistent at the back.
It is also worth noting that, aside from Brighton, Fulham could be another chance to rotate. It will be sandwiched between Real Madrid either side and Tuchel may be smart to use that one to rest a few players. That being said, unlike Brighton, Fulham is in the relegation battle and they have something to lose. It seems a greater risk to rotate heavy against Fulham, a London rival with everything to lose, than Brighton coming up.
Tuchel is going to see himself and his squad tested in the coming run of games. He will have to manage form and fatigue expertly to get the Blues through to the end of the season with every player still standing.