The new Premier League season is already under way and under way in fairly spectacular fashion with Arsenal losing to newly promoted Brentford, 2-0. As fun as it is to laugh at Arsenal, that should also serve as a reminder that in this league, anything can happen. That’s true to some extent in all leagues and all sports, but the talent-margins in the Premier League are as small as ever, even if the top teams are able to drop nine figures on new players. (Not that Arsenal are a top team, but they did spent £50m already on Ben White so...)
More than ever, teams will be separated not necessarily by the quality of a starting eleven, but by the depth of the team, the consistency (and fitness) of the players, and the quality of the coaching and the tactics. We should be well set in all three of those departments, which is why Tuchel isn’t shying away from setting his sights on the top of the table. The man’s a winner and he wants his team to be winners just the same.
Chelsea have not been in the title conversation for nearly a half-decade, since Antonio Conte lit a bonfire through passion and work work work. Tuchel’s key word is attitude. Can he close the gap and keep winning? That journey begins here.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 14, 2021, 15.00 BST; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6 — with 300 seats regrettably unavailable after work on the rail seat installation ran over schedule due to supply constraints. Chelsea have certainly dropped the ball on this, and if you’re one of the unlucky ones in the Matthew Harding Lower whom this affects, it really does suck — the compensation offered is okay, but it doesn’t include tickets to this game.
Referee: Jonathan Moss (on pitch); James Linington (VAR) — reminder that “thicker lines” will now be used for offside decisions, which should in theory cut down on the marginal nonsense we’ve been seeing (that cheer you may have heard came from Timo Werner’s house)
Forecast: actually nice, and almost sunny, even!
On TV: none (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: none (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA) — back to the dark ages we go after broadcast restrictions were relaxed during COVID in the UK. Meanwhile, in the US, we’re stuck with Peacock, which remains atrocious and was practically useless during the Olympics. We do have an affiliate link if you want to sign up after that ringing endorsement, and if you aren’t getting it for free with Comcast/Xfinity.
Chelsea team news: After the exertions of the UEFA Super Cup just a couple days ago, we might be seeing heavy rotation for this one — and that’s something we probably should get used to. It’s going to be a very long season (possibly 60+ games) across 4-5 competitions and we’re going to need every player to be ready to perform up to their capabilities on any given Saturday, Sunday, and any other day.
The choice of striker might particularly be interesting as Kai Havertz played 120 minutes on Wednesday, Tammy Abraham looks nine toes out the door, and Romelu Lukaku isn’t quite ready yet (it’s unclear whether that’s tactical, fitness-related, or something to do with COVID — even though Italy and France are both on the amber travel list and Lukaku is vaccinated). It would be pretty funny if Michy Batshuayi played and scored against Palace, his former loan team.
(UPDATE: Lukaku is in quarantine until Monday, as it turns out, which seems strange given the government’s rules or the fact that he already posed with Marina Granovskaia for the official announcement, but Tuchel confirmed it’s part of some protocol so whatever.)
We do have a week to recover from this game and keep working on match fitness before a trip to the Emirates next weekend to play Arsenal, which begins a rather imposing and possibly season-making run of Premier League fixtures (Arsenal A, Liverpool A, Villa H, Spurs A, Man City H).
Crystal Palace team news: Palace may not have broken any transfer records, but it’s been a summer of momentous change, with new head coach Patrick Vieira coming in after four years of Roy Hodgson and the team adding several exciting young players, including Marc Guéhi and Conor Gallagher from Chelsea (the latter just on loan) and former Chelsea prospect Michael Olise from Reading. Lyon center back Joachim Anderson, who has no connection to Chelsea but was on loan at Fulham last season, also joined.
It’s not all good news over at Selhurst Park however. Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson are both out with Achilles injuries. It’s an especially cruel blow for Ferguson who had missed all of last season with a knee injury. Captain Luka Milivojevic will miss out because of personal reasons while Olise is nursing a back injury and Gallagher is ineligible as per loan rules.
This is Palace’s ninth consecutive season in the Premier League and they’ve finished midtable in all of them thus far. Expectations for this season might be along similar lines, but any team with Wilfried Zaha certainly should not be underestimated.
Previously: We did the double over Palace last season by a combined 8-1 scoreline and have won seven straight against them. Our last meeting was in April, at Selhurst Park, with a Pulisic brace powering Tuchel’s Blues to a 4-1 victory.