Chelsea prematurely returned to London after its friendly in Ireland against Drogheda was cancelled. The Blues made the decision to cut the trip short after a possible positive COVID-19 test within the camp. While it’s nice to have the lads back at home, the decision to scrap their second preseason match could prove costly in the grand scheme of things. Thomas Tuchel’s side now prepares for its first game of the new campaign that is available to viewers on Tuesday—this clash against a worthy opponent.
Vitality Stadium will play host to the Blues versus Bournemouth. Tuchel’s group of rag-tag returning players will get their feet wet and look to improve ahead of the more serious matches to come. Following the final whistle at the home of the Championship’s Cherries, Chelsea will turn its attention to bouts against Arsenal and Tottenham on August 1 and August 4 respectively. The Mind Series will act as a precursor to the Blues’ Super Cup clash against Villarreal on August 11. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, there is still a bit of time between now and the contests that count for something.
Here are three things to look for in Chelsea’s preseason trip to Bournemouth:
1. Fitness levels
Saturday’s results across Europe showed us that fitness levels aren’t a big talking point during the preseason. Manchester United’s 4-2 loss to QPR and Leicester City’s 0-0 draw (3-1 loss on penalties) against Burton Albion acted as important reminders that wins and losses simply do not matter at this point in time, regardless of all the banter surrounding the full-time scores. Of course, it’s fun to poke fun at members of those fan bases about their beloved team losing to a tinpot club. But it’s all null and void come August 14—13, if you’re an Arsenal or Brentford fan—when the Premier League season kicks off. The point of all of this being, fitness is the real evaluation of success in the preseason.
Chelsea’s fitness levels will likely be lacking on Tuesday, which is understandable for those just joining the team. Nine new faces appeared at Cobham on Saturday. This group, comprised of players who failed to make the semifinals of the Euros and a few loanees, will join the larger squad in the coming days. The returning bunch was made up by Tiemoue Bakayoko, Michy Batshuayi, Kai Havertz, N’Golo Kante, Kenedy, Mateo Kovacic, Antonio Rudiger, Timo Werner and Kurt Zouma. Tino Anjorin will also return to Cobham on Sunday. It’d be a surprise to see these individuals get much of a run out against Bournemouth. If Tuchel does decide to field them, expect a bit of rust, natural to any player who has taken a few weeks off.
The real match fitness should be shown by those who have been in training for a few weeks now. A closed-door friendly versus Peterborough United and an official intrasquad contest have gotten them up to speed. That’s not to say they will look cohesive as these are 11 players that will likely never play together as a unit outside of preseason, but fitness is the real thing to keep an eye on.