Chelsea were imperious last season as they stormed to a fifth Premier League title, with a total of 93 points. However, having lost out on top target Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, and with star striker Diego Costa looking all but certain to leave, the Blues have a tough task in finding new transfer targets this summer.
While things hot up off the field, Chelsea can start to focus on their on-pitch performance as pre season gets underway.
Anyone who doubts the importance of these games should remember that Chelsea’s torrid time in the 2015/16 season in which they finished 10th in the league started with a poor pre-season in which the Blues failed to win a game.
Antonio Conte will be in no doubt that in truth, the season starts here. As the Blues prepare for a testing campaign, here’s a preview of the teams Chelsea will face in the coming weeks…
3. Arsenal (Beijing National Stadium)
Saturday 22nd July, 12.40 BST.
Chelsea travel to ‘The Bird’s Nest’ for the first of their pre-season games against the last team that beat them: Arsenal.
The Gunners’ 2-1 victory over Chelsea in last season’s FA Cup final showed Arsenal still feel they have something to prove, and that the team remain behind Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal vastly improved in the last few games of the season after a switch to three at the back. The match will offer an opportunity to see how record signing Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez (should he stay) could link up next season.
The signing of versatile Schalke defender Sead Kolasinac looks to have been a savvy piece of business, and it will interesting to see whether Wenger experiments with the Bosnia and Herzegovina international in a back-three formation.
The derby in China may also bring a first run-out for Chelsea’s new arrival from Roma £34m centre-back Antonio Rudiger.
2. Bayern Munich (National Stadium, Singapore)
Tuesday 25th July, 12.35 BST.
The absence of Champions League football may have been a large factor in Chelsea’s successes in the league last season. However, in the first game of this three-way mini tournament along with with Internazionale, Chelsea can test themselves against genuine European giants in the International Champions Cup.
Bayern strolled to a fifth consecutive Bundesliga title last term, but by their own high standards they will have been disappointed by their quarter final exit from the Champions League to Real Madrid and a semi final defeat in the DFB Pokal.
Chelsea’s opponents are investing in youth and the meeting will likely give an opportunity for new signings Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman (after being signed permanently this summer), Niklas Süle and former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry to audition for a regular place in the team.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side show no signs of slowing down in the summer months however, with 9-1 victory at FSV Erlangen-Bruck already under their belts in pre-season.
1. Internazionale (National Stadium, Singapore)
Saturday 29th July, 12.35 BST.
Following the sacking of Stefano Pioli last season, Inter’s new owners were all too frequently linked with the Blues’ own Antonio Conte – with some rumours claiming that the Italian’s head had been turned by a £250,000-a-week wage offer and a chance to return to Italy, before Luciano Spalletti eventually took the helm at San Siro.
Despite finishing seventh in Serie A last season, Inter are not a side to be underestimated on the pitch.
Star striker and club captain Mauro Icardi’s goal in Inter’s 3–1 home win against Chievo in January made him the first Inter player to score at least 15 goals in three consecutive seasons since Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Christian Vieri. Attacking playmaker Ivan Perisic remains a target for Manchester United after a superb season in which he bagged 10 goals and six assists.
Inter’s owners are reportedly willing to back new manager Luciano Spalletti in the transfer market in order to build a team that can once again compete for Serie A titles.