Stamford Bridge hosts a first-team friendly for just the fifth time in the Abramovich Era as Olympique Lyonnais come to town in an oddly timed midweek friendly just four days before the start of the Premier League season. Of course it’s been an oddly timed summer all around, with World Cup distractions, strange delays (e.g.: Conte/Sarri), and plenty of drama yet to play out in the final 72 hours of the transfer window.
So amidst all that, let’s have a friendly, shall we? As Sarri said, he’d much prefer to just work on the training ground. But contractual obligations are contractual obligations (right, Thibaut?), and Chelsea have to fulfill their yearly quota of International Champions Cup matches.
The season starts Saturday, the transfer window shuts Thursday, so this game is just about of least importance imaginable, but if you’re not doing anything today, head on down to the ground (tickets on sale in person until 4pm local time), or tune in and maybe we’ll even have a Hazard or Kanté sighting.
Date / Time: Tuesday, August 7, 20:05 BST; 3:05pm EDT; 12:35am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Forecast: Another scorcher with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon/evening
On TV: Premier Sports (UK); ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes (USA); elsewhere
Chelsea team news: At last, everybody’s finally back from their post-World Cup vacations, though of course for Thibaut Courtois that just means more vacation as he’s decided to not report back and instead hold out for his move to Real Madrid. As much as this may not be an at all uncommon move in professional sports, the way Courtois has gone about it, lying through his teeth, has ensured that the reaction to it has been almost universally negative. So well done there, Thibaut, to unite the fanbase.
But everyone else is back, including Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kanté, Michy Batshuayi, Olivier Giroud, and Gary Cahill, all of whom completed their first training session of the summer yesterday. Also joining that session were the players who did not start in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the Community Shield, and happily, that included Kurt Zouma (back from injury), Tomáš Kalas (yet to be loaned out), and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (also not loaned out). We can perhaps expect those three to start as Sarri will look to completely rotate his squad from two days ago.
Olympique Lyonnais team news: OL’s season also starts this weekend (Sunday) and they also played last weekend (Saturday), so they’ll probably be taking this just as easy as Chelsea.
Lyon, a perennial power in France, famously won seven (7) Ligue 1 titles in a row a decade ago, but they have finished outside of the top four just once in the last 20 seasons. During that time, some of the best players of all-time passed through their doors, including a certain Michael Essien, who spent two seasons there before coming over to Chelsea. His knees unfortunately couldn’t measure up to his excellence but for a brief period around, say, 2006, he was the best midfielder in the whole wide world.
The two teams have also done business with Florent Malouda following in Essien’s footsteps and Bertrand Traoré going the other way last summer. Incidentally, another potential transfer will probably receive a few mentions (even though he’s not here today), as Nabil Fekir’s links with Chelsea and Liverpool were renewed yesterday. Lyon, who finished third last season, have been strangely quiet in the transfer market this summer, selling a couple young players (Diakhaby, Geubbels, Mateta all for €10m+ each) but not really doing anything else of note yet.
Fekir did not travel as he just returned to training like Chelsea’s French contingent. But a player to watch (other than Traoré) will be 21-year-old Tanguy Ndombèlé, who will be another big-money transfer at some point in the next few years.
Previously: As pointed out on the official website, the four previous home friendlies in the Roman Era proved accurate predictors for the season ahead. Wins in 2004 (Real Zaragoza) and 2014 (Real Sociedad) were followed by league titles. A draw in 2006 (Celtic) led to Cup success, but a defeat in 2015 (Fiorentina featuring Marcos Alonso and Matias Vecino) led to palpable discord.
Let’s hope we get at least a draw this time!