It looks as though Andre Villas-Boas' pre-season training regime is about to be taken up a notch. So far, with three friendlies under the team's belt, the new manager has been putting players through their paces, one half at a time. That'll change with the next match. Chelsea play against the Thailand all-stars on Sunday, and this time some of the more important players will be given a longer run-out. So says Florent Malouda, anyway:
The coach said some people will play longer this time, and I'd say that our fitness is improving all the time. We are not in our best form yet so we need these games, even if it is different conditions from what we are used to or for us to be at our best.
-Florent Malouda. Source: ChelseaFC.com.
After a couple of poor performances against Portsmouth then a Malaysia XI, I'd guess that Villas-Boas will probably field a strong team and keep most of them out there for about an hour. He's seen them all play for three matches, and now it's time to experiment with shape, find holes in the squad, and get to understand just what is expected of everyone in a specific system.
Without me knowing anything about the Thailand all-stars (other than that they're probably not very good), there's not much else I can say about the way the two sides will match up, but we can speculate as to Chelsea. Michael Essien aside, everyone's probably fit to play, and so we can make a decent enough guess as to what starting lineup would best suit the players available. Here goes nothing.
I have Torres starting over Didier Drogba because McEachran and Anelka should combine to give him enough of those through balls he thrives on, and McEachran is the natural fit in the team with Ramires absent and Essien injured. It's time to see if this can work.
The game is at 5:45 PM local time, which means it might be even hotter than the Malaysia match. That translates to 11:45 BST, 6:45 EDT and 3:45 PDT and since I'm in the latter there's almost no way I'll be up to watch it. Considering how the team's looked so far, that's not such a huge loss, but I'll be glad when the Blues are back in a time zone I can actually follow on a regular basis.
Update: Ryan Bertrand is up with a tweaked hamstring, so we'll probably see half an hour of Patrick van Aanholt at the end of the match.