The last time I wrote one of these I was (I assume) so nauseated by the idea of Chelsea playing in the Champions League final I literally cannot remember writing a preview. For this match, things really couldn't be much different. The European Champions have their first match in two months on Wednesday, and it should be a fun one -- a preseason friendly with the Seattle Sounders. Hurray not having any pressure.
Date/Time: Thursday, July 19, 2:30 AM BST (Wednesday, July 18, 9:30 PM EDT).
Venue: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, United States.
TV: Chelsea TV (UK), ESPN2 (USA).
Watch online: Chelsea TV, ESPN3.
The Seattle Sounders are the most supported team in Major League Soccer, having sold out every match of their three-and-a-bit-year life in the top flight. They are three-time holders (and one of this year's finalists) of the US Open Cup, their domestic knockout competition, and although they've never come particularly close to winning the MLS Cup outright, they've consistently been one of the best teams in the league.
Watch for holding midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and striker Fredy Montero, by a long way the two most talented players on the team. Both could be looking at moves to Europe in the future, although neither would be particularly plausible transfer targets for the likes of Chelsea.
Check out Sounder at Heart for more, if you're curious.
There are three new faces for Chelsea in the form of Marko Marin, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard, but there are also several players missing through transfer and international duty. Gone is talisman Didier Drogba, now at Shanghai Shenhua, and Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa both join him on the departures list. Several players are either on international duty or recovering from it - there'll be no Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Oriol Romeu, Raul Meireles, Florent Malouda, Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand, John Terry and Daniel Sturridge are all out. Aside from Sturridge's scare with viral meningitis, there are no injury concerns. Hurray!
For the Sounders, the only long-term absence is winger David Estrada, who's been gone for much of the 2012 Major League Soccer season, although as of just now it sounds like they might have lost midfielder Alvaro Fernandez to Deportivo Cali. Steve Zakuani and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning have both recovered from severe injuries and could start if selected by head coach Sigi Schmid. 31-year-old veteran pirate impersonator Roger Levesque has announced that this match will be his last -- it's nice of Chelsea to throw him a retirement party, eh?
I'm assuming we're going to go 4-2-3-1 to give Hazard some time in his preferred position. But really, who cares? Roberto di Matteo will do what he likes.
Remember to follow along in our game thread! It'll be super-duper fun!