For the first time since 2006 -- also a World Cup year -- Chelsea will be hosting a preseason friendly at Stamford Bridge, freshly renovated with a brand new pitch and fancy, flicker-free LED lighting.
It promises to be a decent occasion, with Jose Mourinho asking fans to show up early (45-60 minutes before kickoff) to greet the squad who will be introduced one-by-one before warmups. One can only hope they got a good hype man, not that I have anything against Neil Barnett's team sheet reading abilities. And maybe some pyrotechnics? I'm sure André Schürrle would love to run out onto the brand new pitch under brand new fancy, flicker-free LED lights to the sound of exploding fireworks and maybe some massive columns of flames.
The 2006 match against Celtic ended 1-1, the visitors taking an early lead through Gary Caldwell and Chelsea equalizing through Shaun Wright-Phillips. New boys Hilario, Ballack, Mikel, Shevchenko, and Kalou all made their home debuts.
Three players from that game remain with us eight years later: John Terry, Didier Drogba, and John Obi Mikel. Lampard also played but Petr Cech missed the game through injury (shoulder surgery). Ryan Bertrand went as an unused sub, while Hilario replaced Carlo Cudicini in the second half. Jiri Jarosik started for Celtic; he left the Blues earlier that summer.
Unlike the game in 2006, when the Bridge was barely half full, this one looks like it's going to be a sellout. Well done!
Date / Time: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 19:45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Forecast: Breezy and not very warm, with a passing shower or two.
On TV: Chelsea TV (UK)
Online: Chelsea TV (freeview)
Chelsea Team News: Hopefully Thibaut Courtois will have recovered from his slight knock, so everybody but Didier Drogba should be available. Having played what could very well be a first-choice eleven on Friday and a heavily rotated starting lineup on Sunday, there's a good chance that Mourinho will roll out the big guns in this one from the start once again. The real season starts Monday; this is the final dress rehearsal.
Real Sociedad Team News: La Real suprised everyone by finishing fourth two seasons ago (their best La Liga finish since the deadly Kahveci Nihat (23 goals) - Darko Kovacevic (20 goals) duo inspired them to 2nd place in 2002-03); the extra European commitments and the loss of one of their key players in Asier Illarramendi meant that they only managed seventh last season. Further departures this offseason (highly coveted wing-forward Antoine Griezmann to Atletico, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to Barcelona) won't help in reversing the downward trend.
One player who might have something to say about that is new arrival Alfreð Finnbogason. The 25-year-old Icelander scored 59 times in 70 games for Heerenveen and led the Eredivisie with 29 goals last season. Hometown boy and captain Xabi Prieto is still around, while ex-Londoners Carlos Vela and Esteban Granero will surely relish the opportunity to once again showcase their skills in England.
Real Sociedad have not had the winningest of preseasons and are coming off of a 1-0 loss to Newcastle United. They have however managed to reach the Europa League qualifying playoffs, beating Aberdeen 5-2 on aggregate. They will now face Russian side Kuban Krasnodar to get into the group stages.
Previously: Chelsea have played many Reals before in competitive matches (Betis, Madrid, Mallorca, Zaragoza), but not this one. Digging deeper into the archives, we find the 1967 edition of the City of San Sebastian Tournament. Almost 47 years to the day, a Chelsea team of Bonetti; Hinton, Thomson, Waldron; Harris, Osgood, Boyle, Cook, Baldwin, Tambling and Hollins lost 2-1.