Chelsea have one foot in the UEFA Europa League semi-final already after their 1-0 win away from home in the first-leg against Slavia Prague. They will be looking to seal the tie at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
While the Blues are highly favoured to progress to the last four, all eyes will be on the player Maurizio Sarri deploys on the right wing with Willian and young Callum Hudson-Odoi both jostling for a place in the first team.
It is turning out to be a breakthrough season for teenager Hudson-Odoi with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich lurking to take him to Germany. While the 18-year-old’s rise from the youth ranks has been an impressive one, his promising displays have also served as a reminder of Willian’s growing ineffectiveness at Chelsea.
The senior Brazilian winger has been a shadow of his former self at Stamford Bridge and the 30-year-old no longer one of the first names on the Chelsea team sheets. In the ongoing season, Willian has managed to bag eight goals and provide 14 assists in 50 appearances across all competitions but the 30-year-old's decision-making and final product have drawn flak.
In comparison, Odoi has managed to grab six goals and seven assists in just over half (27) of Willian’s appearances in what is still the youngster’s first real stint at the senior level. Four of the teenager’s goals have come in the Europa League where he has become a trusted servant of Sarri's ideas on the pitch.
While Odoi’s growing relevance at the club will please the Chelsea supporters no end, his rise is a wake-up call for Willian who is in danger of dropping out of Sarri's plans. The Brazilian has already seen his first-team minutes reduced in the last few games and will need to step up big time if he is to preserve his reputation and place at Chelsea.
Willian did provide the decisive assist in the first-leg against Slavia Prague and he will need another big display on Thursday to retain his first-team spot.