Preview: PAOK v Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri has opted to rest Eden Hazard for Chelsea’s first game of their Europa League campaign with Greek side PAOK.

Europa League
Date: 20 September 2018
Game week 1
Kick-off: 19:55 local time/01:55 HKT (21 September)
Venue: Stadio Toumbas

Referee: A. Undiano
Assistants: R. Cabanero, I. Prieto
Fourth official: J. Aguilar

This is the first time these two sides will be facing each other.

Players to watch

Leo Matos has netted a couple of goals to help PAOK to a winning start in their league season, while Chelsea may be familiar with a couple of their opposing players, in former Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom and Omar El Kaddouri, who joined from Napoli.

Eden Hazard has been left at home (alongside David Luiz, Mateo Kovacic and Emerson Palmieri), meaning Chelsea will be leaning more heavily on Willian, Pedro and Alvaro Morata for goals in Greece after their impressive start to their Premier League season.

Team form and manager quotes

Chelsea come into this clash in fine form, on top of the Premier League standings, with a perfect winning record.

PAOK have also won their opening three games in the Greek Super League, although they ended up in the Europa League after losing to Benfica in the play-off round of the Champions League.

Ahead of the clash, Sarri said: “David Luiz is in Cobham. He is playing very often now after six months without playing, and so I thought it would be better for him to have training and rest.

“The second is Kovacic after the little injury in the last match against Cardiff.

“The last one is Eden Hazard. He told me after the national team, and the match against Cardiff, he was a little bit tired, so I thought it would be better for him to stay at Cobham and rest.”

He added: “Our target is first of all to qualify, and then to qualify in first spot in our group. So, in order to win our group, the match tomorrow is the most important in the group because it’s the most difficult match.”

PAOK boss Razvan Lucescu said: “We have to manage every game in any competition.

“We will give everything to win the next game. Chelsea is one of the best teams in the world. We will be prepared and we have huge motivation for this game.”

Team news

Striker Aleksandar Prijovic is in contention for PAOK after a hamstring problem.

For Chelsea, Gary Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Ethan Ampadu could all play but Ruben Loftus-Cheek is an injury doubt.

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