Chelsea takes its act on the road to St. Louis on Thursday for the first of two end-of-season international friendlies against Manchester City in the United States. Uncle Roman's Flying Circus continues its globetrotting ways in an effort to appease its worldwide fanbase.
Are you listening, Antarctica?
Who: Chelsea FC vs. Manchester City FC
What: International friendly
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
When: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 1:30 GMT/8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT
TV: ESPN2, ESPN3 [ESPN3 Link] (US). Chelsea TV [Chelsea TV Link] (UK, Ireland)
Odds: Chelsea +155, Manchester City +155, Draw +255
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
And if it seems like these two storied clubs were just playing in the English Premier League days ago, well, they were.
So why more soccer so soon?
Well, after a Premier League-record 69-game marathon, the Blues now find themselves just 14,572 miles short of a frequent flier bonus in which the club can qualify for a free Cristiano Ronaldo. So there obviously is a method to their royal blue madness.
Anyway, the current Europa League and European champs (well, for at least two more days) sent 23 players to the Gateway City, and it's not to sample the Budweiser or skinny dip in the Mississippi River.
Pretty much everyone on Chelsea's first-team roster except captain John Terry and Ryan Bertrand made the trip, meaning Blues fans in the Midwest can get a nice big dose of Frank Lampard if the vice-captain plays.
Some younger guys who may be trying to prove their future worth to the club and who should get some minutes over the two matches are goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, defensive midfielder Nathan Aké, defender Andreas Christensen and midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marko Marin.
And while getting guys like these some valuable playing time against a quality opponent is a priority here, making sure that none of the key cogs for next year like Petr Čech, Juan Mata, David Luiz, César Azpilicueta and Eden Hazard get hurt surely must be another.
For this reason, expect a somewhat loosey-goosey game from both sides.
Besides the aforementioned Blues players, Chelsea will also have 37-year-old goalkeeper Hilário, Paulo Ferreira, Branislav Ivanović, Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, Ramires, John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun, Oscar, Victor Moses, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres at its disposal for the two games.
Like Chelsea, Manchester City is looking for a new manager after Roberto Mancini was let go. Rumors from the Telegraph that Málaga's Manuel Pellegrini will end up getting the Sky Blues gig look to be coming to fruition.
Exactly who Manchester City will choose to play, like Chelsea, is a mystery. But with players like goalkeeper Joe Hart, Carlos Tévez, Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasić, Gaël Clichy, James Milner, Yaya Touré, Gareth Barry and Samir Nasri, among others, to work with, the fans should be entertained even if the game is entirely meaningless.
The two clubs met four times this past year with City going 3-1-0 in those meetings—a 3-2 win in the Community Shield (Aug. 12); a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge (Nov. 25) and a 2-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium (Feb. 24) in Premier League play; and a 2-1 triumph in the FA Cup semifinals (April 14).
Wagering on a game like this one seems about as smart as buying little pastel sweaters for your twin pet ferrets, but hey, some people do that, so who are we to judge?
If you feel the need, it may be a good idea to take a good look at the draw here with the steep payback (+255). Neither side will really care about the win and both would settle for a tie.
So will there be a blue moon over St. Louis on Thursday night?
Possibly. And if so, the big question is will it end up being sky or royal blue?
The two clubs will meet again on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in New York City (Fox Soccer Channel, 5:30 p.m./2:30 p.m. ET).
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Manchester City 2
BET: Draw +255
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