Chelsea face Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final and both clubs could be without a starting striker.
The Blues are edging closer to signing Gonzalo Higuain but Maurizio Sarri revealed on Wednesday, according to quotes as per The Telegraph, that he will not be eligible to face Spurs.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men, meanwhile, have Fernando Llorente as their only fit centre-forward option, but the Spaniard struggled immensely against Fulham in the Premier League and may be a doubt to be selected in the starting XI again for this clash.
Chelsea’s deal to sign Higuain needed to be completed by midday for him to be eligible to play against Spurs, but Sarri conceded defeat in his pre-match press conference.
“Midday? It’s impossible. For tomorrow, I think, it’s impossible,” he said, according to The Telegraph.
Higuain could subsequently make his debut in this weekend’s FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday if a deal goes through, but Sarri is left with a decision to make for the last-four encounter, in which Chelsea trail 1-0 on aggregate.
Higuain’s move to the club has seemingly signalled the end of Alvaro Morata’s spell at Stamford Bridge and the Spaniard is poised to complete an initial loan move to Atletico Madrid, reports The Guardian.
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Eden Hazard played through the middle as a false nine against Spurs in the first leg and continued to do so in the Premier League clashes with Newcastle United and Arsenal.
The Belgium international, though, did not enjoy much success, drawing a blank in all three games, with Pedro and Willian on the scoresheet in the 2-1 victory over the Magpies.
He is likely to be trusted again, however, as there are few alternative options, but Sarri can perhaps take heart from the fact that Spurs face a similar problem.
Mauricio Pochettino has been rocked by a number of injuries in recent weeks; Harry Kane and Dele Alli are both ruled out until March, with ligament and hamstring problems respectively, while Son-Heung Min is on international duty with South Korea in the Asian Cup.
Llorente was picked to play against Fulham but had very little positive effect on the game, scoring an own goal and missing two gilt-edged chances as Spurs ground out a gritty 2-1 win.
Lucas Moura, back in training this week, could be thrust into the starting XI, with the only other option really coming in the form of Erik Lamela.
The game promises to be an intriguing one, as Sarri and Pochettino both look to employ similar styles.
Sarri is surely more familiar with the false nine formation, having repeatedly deployed Hazard in the role, but the Belgian has not had too much success.
Spurs, too, may well be best off employing more of a defensive approach, particularly given that they already hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg.
That would encourage Chelsea to find a way through, and we have repeatedly seen that Sarri’s side like to enjoy a lot of relatively meaningless possession.
Per WhoScored, the Blues are second in terms of ranking for possession in the Premier League, yet sixth for actual goals scored.
Spurs allowing Chelsea to have the ball and attempt to win it back before launching a quick break could prove the key to success, particularly with the likes of Christian Eriksen, Lucas and Erik Lamela all fit to play.
The dilemma for the Blues, however, is that they simply have to take the game to their London rivals; if only they’d completed their deal for Higuain sooner.