Barring a sudden and unforeseen complication, Chelsea will be playing our first match of the Premier League’s Project Restart in two weeks.
On Sunday, June 21, the Blues will travel up the road to take on relegation-threatened Aston Villa in the first of the remaining nine Premier League fixtures left in the 2019-20 season. A tenth match, the FA Cup quarterfinal also awaits, at the very least.
“It’s important we get our preparation right.”
“With so much time off, and so much time to sit and scrutinise the table and your positions, for everyone there is going to be so much spotlight on this.
“Every game now in the nine league games is going to have something on it for different reasons. The first two games are good examples of that. Villa are fighting for their lives, City have huge quality, we know that. It’s a difficult start and we’ll need to be ready.”
All those games are set to be completed by the first week of August, which means that the schedule will be quite busy as Chelsea look to finish the job and secure Champions League qualification for next season.
And as if that wasn’t enough pressure, the spotlight will be shining bright on each and every game coming up — both from a sporting perspective and a societal as well. Can this scheme work to enable football in our new reality? Can Chelsea deal with the task at hand? Can the players perform up the level needed in a drastically new setting? Can they keep fit and stay healthy? Those are just a few of the questions that need to be answered and answered quickly.
“In football terms you prepare pretty much the same.
‘There will definitely be different variables around the game now. We’ll have to try to make sure we prepare as well as we can in terms of being ready for the change in atmosphere. We’ve had discussions about that with the players. It will be different for everyone.
“It may change the pace of the game, it might change the slight tone of it. We’ve seen that slightly in Germany and we need to be ready to adapt to that. All we can do really is get ourselves as fit as possible. That’s been a difficult task in the short term, to get fit when we’re used to longer pre-seasons.
“We have worked hard on that, and when it comes to match days we’ll have to make sure we’re very ready for the changes from the norm, and make sure it doesn’t affect our performance on the pitch.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
In Germany, we’ve seen home field advantage drain away (even with piped-in crowd noise) with no fans to put pressure on officials or opposition players. But some players might actually perform better in such circumstances — Ross Barkley, pre-season all-star at the ready! — while others might find it harder to get motivated properly. Play-acting and playing to the crowd has been less prevalent, which could speed up the game, but at the same time, the lack of a familiar match-setting could make it more akin to a training match.
It will be similar, but not the same. The world’s no longer the same either. But one thing remains: the need to win.
Even before the pandemic, the season had more than its fair share of ups and downs — Lampard’s future may look assured at the moment, but missing out on the top four or five (depending on the status of Manchester City’s European ban) would not be good.