Chelsea placed third in the Premier League last season, but after falling so far behind Liverpool and Manchester City, they’ll want a better performance in the year to come. With standouts like Willian, Salah and Loftus-Cheek staying for the next season, the squad looks strong. But amid rumors of Hazard leaving during Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban, the club will look for the squad to go above and beyond for a good result this season.
The biggest change to Chelsea’s infrastructure is the controversial appointment of the legendary midfielder Frank Lampard as manager. Many people have openly criticized the decision, amid concerns that he still isn’t ready for the role. I, for one, am excited to see what he can bring to the table, and I’m eager for the preseason to start. I truly believe that Chelsea can return to the form they had in the summer of 2017 and win the Premier League again.
Now, preseason games aren’t a perfect indicator of how a team will perform in the upcoming year, but they provide a unique opportunity for fans to observe how well the squad will do against teams that are outside the scope of the Premier League. In Chelsea’s case, it will also show the fans how capable Lampard is in organizing the team for maximum potential. With that in mind, today, I’ll look at the fixtures for Chelsea’s preseason as well as their early games in the 2019/20 season. Even before these matches take place, our instincts on who will win each friendly are a good indicator of what the future has in store for The Blues.
Chelsea’s first two friendly matches are against Irish teams Bohemians F.C. and St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C., the first of which takes place on July 10th. The Bohemians F.C. are the oldest team in the Irish League, playing continuously since their inception in 1890. But apart from that little tidbit, neither the Bohemians nor St. Patrick’s have any notable strengths to their team. As is often the case with friendlies, these early games will be simple warm-ups to get the players back to proper match fitness. I think it’s safe to say that neither of these teams will offer much competition for Chelsea.
Amid their normal preseason routine, the Chelsea squad flies out to Japan to take part in the J. League World Challenge. The World Challenge began in 2017, and this year, it pits Chelsea against last year’s defending J. League champions, Kawasaki Frontale. This season, Kawasaki is in third place. Speaking on the event: Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “We are delighted to be returning to Japan after almost seven years … We are sure Kawasaki Frontale will provide high-level opposition at a noisy and passionate International Stadium.” The expectation is that Chelsea will take home the win from the Japanese side on this one.
The only challenging friendly in Chelsea’s preseason will also take place in Japan, against Barcelona. The quality is always high in the Barcelona squad, and after winning La Liga by 11 points last season, the momentum is expected to continue. Barcelona has the means to test the strength of the Chelsea squad in all areas of the pitch. So, if Chelsea can perform well in this match, it will bode well for the early stages of the season. However, I am doubtful that Chelsea will be able to take the win. It’ll probably take Lampard a bit more time to integrate into the team properly.
Hopefully, by the time the new season begins in August, Lampard will have integrated, as Chelsea will need to perform early on if they want to get early points. The first two games will be tough, with Chelsea playing away to both Manchester United and Liverpool. And since United didn’t have a great season last year, they’ll look to start strong, too. On the other hand, Liverpool had a prolific season topped off with a Champions League trophy, so it’d be the best chance for them to grab a win and steal some early points. After that, the next few games are against mid-table teams that Lampard should win. All in all, I’m predicting a strong preseason, with the momentum providing an equally strong beginning to the season proper.