Barely two months after the final whistle sounded in Baku, Azerbaijan on Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Arsenal in the Europa League final, the Blues are back in competitive action, traveling to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United on matchday 1 of the 2019-20 Premier League season.
Football is back, and it starts with a matchup of the two teams with the best opening day records in Premier League history.
Chelsea’s season promises to be one of many questions, many possibilities, and potentially many pitfalls. Faith has been placed firmly in our own, with Frank Lampard taking over as head coach, supported by a barrelful of ex-Chelsea players and coaches, and with over a half dozen homegrown youth set to play major parts. All the makings of a wonderful season are there, as are all the concerns of an absolutely terrible one.
The adventure begins.
Date / Time: Sunday, August 11, 2019, 16:30 BST; 11:30am EDT; 9pm IST
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Forecast: Light rain, summer in Manchester!
Referee: Anthony Taylor — a familiar face with 30 Chelsea games under his belt, Manchester-born (!!?) Taylor has never actually refereed a game between these two sides.
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky GO (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India)
Manchester United team news: A squad overloaded with defensive players added two more defenders and sold off their best striker this summer, but did keep hold of Paul Pogba and David De Gea.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back and Harry Maguire, world’s most expensive defender, at center back, do make for formidable additions, but questions remain over the long-term viability of the midfield and the unfulfilled potential of the attack, especially now bereft of Romelu Lukaku’s 1-in-2 strike rate. If there’s a top six squad more weighed down by mediocre players than Chelsea’s, it’s United’s.
Like Chelsea, Solksjær will put a lot of faith in youth as he looks to restore the Red Devils to their previous glory. Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, and Tahith Chong are all expected to be part of the matchday squad, even though only Eric Bailly (knee operation) and Alexis Sánchez (match fitness) are the only two major injury concerns.
View from the enemy: The Busby Babe
Chelsea team news: N’Golo Kanté played a total of 20 minutes in preseason, but could be ready to start after recovering from the knee problem that he’s been carrying since before the Europa League final. Willian and Antonio Rüdiger are back in training as well, but this game will have probably come a bit too soon for them. On Friday, Callum Hudson-Odoi joined training for the first time since his Achilles injury in the spring, and should be back within a month. There’s been no update on Reece James, but he shouldn’t be too far behind either. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the only long-term injury concern beyond that. (For the record, injury list fixture Marco van Ginkel is on there as well with his latest knee surgery.)
A preseason full of good vibes and high spirits (and just 1 loss in 7) was brought to a screeching halt thanks to David Luiz’s deadline day antics, but the Geezer is now a Gunner, and we all have to move on. His departure is yet another opportunity for the young players to step up and make their mark. Lampard talks of belief and confidence, ambition and hard work — qualities that turned him into the world’s best midfielder; qualities that would make Chelsea a contender.
All they want is a chance to prove themselves. A realistic and meaningful opportunity to compete. The stage is set. pic.twitter.com/KM1Jh9IFGU— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) August 9, 2019
We haven’t seen a Chelsea team this “made in Chelsea” in decades. This could be the start of something beautiful. In that battle of romance vs. harsh reality, only the strong will survive.
Previously: On August 15, 2004, José Mourinho’s Chelsea legend began with a 1-0 win over Manchester United. That was at Stamford Bridge, but the parallels are fun to imagine.