Less than one month ago, Maurizio Sarri was handed the reins of Chelsea Football Club after a ridiculously long negotiation with Napoli. Less than one week ago his best players came back from World Cup duty. Less than three days ago he got a new goalkeeper and midfielder. And now he plays for real.
Ready or not, the Premier League season is upon us, with Sarri and his squad scarcely having had time to introduce themselves, let alone learn and apply the new coach’s system.
“The players in this moment need to think what to do too much, and so the ball is not moved at the right speed.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Evening Standard
With the challenge of learning Sarrismo on the fly and difficult results expected in the season’s early weeks — not to mention having scored just three goals from open play during the pre-season — getting a result on opening day would give Sarri breathing room he badly needs.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 11, 2018, 15:00 BST; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield, England
Referee: Chris Kavanagh — more or less a Premier League new boy, with just sixteen top-flight matches under his belt. He was promoted to the Select Group of Referees in 2017. He’s never officiated a Chelsea match, so we have no grudges against him — yet.
Forecast: Partly cloudy, 20°C (68°F). 3% chance of rain, light wind.
On TV: none (UK); NBCSN, NBC Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); talkSport 2 (UK radio); Chelsea TV (audio commentary only; int’l)
Huddersfield Town team news: Danny Williams and Erik Durm are the only injuries. The big question mark is whether they debut a 3-5-2 formation.
Given Chelsea’s expected early struggles, it’s perhaps lucky this first game is “only” Huddersfield away. There are No Easy Matches in the Premier League™ of course, but last season David Wagner’s men only took five points from a possible 36 against the top six. Chelsea won the away tie, 3-1, and drew 1-1 at home (that point secured another season in the Premier League for the deliriously happy Terriers).
Since then, Huddersfield spent big (by their standards) to permanently sign three loanees — defenders Terence Kongolo and Florent Hadergjonaj, and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl — and spent small to get Monaco winger Adama Diakhaby and Stoke winger Ramadan Sobhi. They also picked-up BVB fullback Erik Durm on a free and added a striker on loan on deadline day (Isaac Mbenza from Montpellier).
Based on their pre-season, Wagner may unveil a 3-5-2.
Chelsea team news: Plenty of question marks surround Maurizio Sarri’s first starting lineup in the Premier League thanks to the abbreviated and non-ideal preseason. Are Eden Hazard (reported Monday,) Kepa Arrizabalaga (landed in London on Thursday), N’Golo Kanté (reported Sunday) and midfielder Mateo Kovačić (Thursday) going to be ready to play? Not all of them, says Sarri.
There are no known injury issues, although Cesc Fabregas was on crutches until shortly before the Community Shield, did not look fully healthy midweek against Lyon, and posted an ominous looking shot on his Instagram yesterday that has led to some Twitter speculation that he was recently in hospital. There have been no follow-up reports and Sarri said nothing about it in his press conference, so it’s probably nothing.
Looks as though he had some sort of surgery? pic.twitter.com/bpl4DZNCac— Sammy (@sammydrogba) August 10, 2018
Last time: Playing without a recognized striker, Chelsea snagged all three points at John Smith’s in December, a 3-1 win which put us level with Manchester United in second place. It wasn’t long after that the roof fell in on our season, of course. Tiemoué Bakayoko scored his third and final goal of the season, with Willian and Pedro also tallying.