Chelsea kick off their whistle-stop tour of Japan with a friendly match against reigning J-League champions Kawasaki Frontale on Friday.
Frank Lampard has trimmed down his squad in preparation for the sides upcoming pre-season fixtures, and naturally, more senior figures have come in to replace the less experienced players whom Chelsea feel would benefit from a loan spell away from the club.
Whilst it is by no means surprising to suggest that Chelsea’s Japanese opponents have been labelled underdogs heading into the game, the Blues must guard against complacency, with Kawasaki Frontale already underway in their domestic season, losing just once in their last 18 games.
Kawasaki Frontale possess a potent goal threat in the form of Yu Kobayashi, who has scored in his last three J-League games, whilst former South-Korea goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong provides plenty of big-game experience having picked up a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics with his international colleagues.
N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic are the only potential doubts ahead of the game, with Kawasaki Frontale expected to field a full-strength side.
Here’s how we think the Blues could line up:
With the much publicised match up against Barcelona to come, Lampard will probably persist with Caballero in order to give Kepa more time to recover.
Has looked sharp thus far and he will hope that continues tomorrow night, as he hopes to oust the soon to return Reece James.
Having recently been drafted in to the squad, Lampard will be keen to assess the progress of Christensen, with the Dane expected to play a key role next season.
Providing leadership and composure from the back, he will help ease some of the less experienced members of the squad into the game, and communicate Lampard’s ideas to the rest of his teammates.
Scored a rather fortuitous long range goal last time out against St Patrick’s and looked assured on the ball. Another good performance will only go further to cementing his position as first choice left-back.
He has rarely caught the eye in the previous two matches he’s taken part in, and with his future still very much up in the air, he needs to start commanding the ball and asking questions of the opposition.
Capped his first start under Lampard with a well taken finish to open the scoring against St Patrick’s. More displays of that nature will only increase his prospects next season.
Kovacic looked very comfortable in possession against St Patrick’s and his delicate pass into Mason Mount was hopefully a sign of his improving decision making further forward.
Was mightily unlucky not to have got on the scoresheet in the Blues’s last match, but his overall play was very promising, and, at times, he ran the midfield with a swagger not seen since the early months of Maurizio Sarri’s reign.
With Chelsea’s front line in desperate need of reinforcements, Batshuayi’s upturn in form will have pleased Lampard as he looks to provide cover for the ageing Olivier Giroud.
Despite my earlier jibe about his age, Giroud looked as sharp as ever in his return to the Chelsea team, netting twice in the second-half to add a comfortable gloss to the scoreline. With the Frenchman expected to spearhead the Blues’s attack next season, he will need all the game time he can get in order to strike up fruitful partnerships with his teammates.
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