Well. Here we go again. Chelsea’s 2021/22 Premier League campaign is finally beginning, and after what seems like a lot longer than just two and a half months, we get to see our Blues back in action in the top flight of English football.
Thomas Tuchel’s men host a reinvented Crystal Palace side managed by Patrick Viera, with the Frenchman hoping to turn over a new leaf at Selhurst Park following the last few underwhelming seasons. Chelsea have some momentum on their side, after winning three out of four pre-season games, and drawing one with London rivals Tottenham. Not only that, but the last two times the Blues played in a competitive match, they won two European trophies. Not bad.
The Eagles also head into the game having won four out of six pre-season matches, as Viera has begun to lay the foundations at his new club. Viera has added some serious talent to his side, with the signings of Michael Olise, Joachim Andersen, as well as Marc Guehi from Chelsea themselves. Not only that, but Conor Gallagher will spend the season on loan at Selhurst Park, although will not be in contention for today’s opener. Add these players to an already stacked team of Wilfred Zaha, Eberechi Eze and Christian Benteke, Palace could make a serious charge for a top half finish come May next year.
That being said, I have to talk about Wednesday’s Super Cup triumph in Belfast. A huge goal from Hakim Ziyech put the Blues one in front, but the pace seemed to disintegrate as the game went on. Chelsea looked poor going forward, and were frequently pegged back by the Villarreal press. Gerard Moreno equalised and took the game to extra time, with Chelsea running out eventual winners after penalties, with Kepa Arrizabalaga being the hero in Ireland. This, I feel, will provide Chelsea with a cutting edge over Crystal Palace, but I still think we need to improve in the final third, as we found out far too often last season, that one goal is just not enough.
Team news and updates:
Thomas Tuchel has provided us with updates regarding Hakim Ziyech and N’Golo Kante, with everyone else seeming to be fit for match day. Firstly, Ziyech will not play against Palace, as the winger suffered a shoulder injury which saw him require a sling on Wednesday night.
“We don’t need to consider surgery, which is very good news and we hope he can be back on the pitch in the next few weeks.“
As for NG, the Frenchman picked up a small knock against Villarreal which may see him miss out today, with Tuchel stating that Kante will be assessed before the opening fixture. Playing 120 minutes, plus a penalty shootout was arguably the worst way we could finish our pre-season, but the players went through all the emotions on Wednesday night, and I think that it will have provided a real boost psychologically to win the game in the fashion of which we did.
“We have some issues with Kante from the final. We need to sort this out and we will see how he is before we select our team.“
Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Rudiger
James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chilwell
Mount, Havertz, Werner
Mason struggled to make a huge impact when coming on from the bench in Belfast, but I firmly believe he is our best player, and is an absolute must in the starting 11. Jorginho was once again phenomenal against Villarreal, and is currently in the form of his life. Kovacic will sport his new number 8 shirt, so the Croatian has big shoes to fill (Of course I’m talking about Barkley, who else wore the 8 at Chelsea?) As for the defence, Trevoh Chalobah was outstanding against Villarreal, and for that reason alone I think he deserves a chance to start against Palace.
Players to watch:
Trevoh Chalobah – As aforementioned, Trev was electric in Belfast, and looked so comfortable in the back three. To step up to the big stage like that with so little preparation tells you everything you need to know about the 22-year-old. Place him alongside an absolute veteran in Azpi, and a mad man in Rudiger, and I really believe he will thrive.
Marc Guehi – The ex Chelsea player will firmly have my eyes fixed on him, following a disappointing exit. I really thought Marc could be a star at Chelsea, but I now want to see him succeed at Selhurst Park. Guehi is an exciting defender, and at just 21-years-old, possesses power and agility like no other. It will be very interesting to see how he fairs against his former team mates.
Written by @mashgreaves