Chelsea begin their tour of Asia with a friendly against the Singha All-Stars. The match also represents the start of the Blues' preparations for the new campaign. Anticipation is beginning to build, with a month until the Premier League season gets underway.
The club should be on high alert after the same All-Star squad upset Manchester United over the weekend. A second-half goal by Teeratep Winothai couldn't be matched by a makeshift Red Devils lineup, causing the David Moyes era to start on a low note.
Jose Mourinho doesn't want his second stint with Chelsea to start in similar fashion. Expect the Blues to take the challenge seriously after seeing what the Singha group can do. That said, it's certainly a winnable match to start the preseason.
What's your prediction for the friendly?
Let's take a glance at all the important information for the friendly, followed by a preview and a prediction for the first of many matches Chelsea will play between now and next May.
Where: Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand
When: Wednesday, July 17 at 9 a.m. ET (2 p.m. BST)
Watch: Chelsea TV
Live Stream: ChelseaFC.com
The biggest concerns heading into the match for Chelsea are fitness and rust. Mourinho isn't going to push any players too hard this early in the summer, and those who do play are still in the process of rediscovering top form.
How much stock do you put in preseason performance?
That's what caught up to Manchester United. They struggled to string together passes and couldn't find the final touch necessary to get on the scoreboard. By the late stages of the match, they were trying to force tough play—it didn't work out.
The Red Devils didn't feature their best starting 11. Mourinho will piece a lineup together, as well. After all, the preseason is a chance to get some experience for young players while the veterans slowly progress in the coming weeks.
Chelsea are planning to make wholesale changes after halftime. The club's official Twitter feed passed along the expected group for each half.
Team tomorrow: Cech, Wallace, Kalas, Terry, Cole; Lamps, Essien; Piazon, De Bruyne, Schurrle; Lukaku. #CFCTour— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) July 16, 2013
And in the second half:
2nd half: Blackman, Ivanovic, Cahill, Chalobah, Bertrand; Van Ginkel, Ramires; De Bruyne (again), Hazard, Moses; Ba. #CFCTour— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) July 16, 2013
Basically, it seems like Mourinho tried to split up the two sides pretty evenly instead of stacking one. That should bode well for Chelsea's chance of getting the tour started with a victory. They should be able to control the match in both halves.
One player to watch is Romelu Lukaku. The striker returns after a very successful loan stint with West Bromwich Albion, where he scored 17 goals in 35 league appearances. He should provide a boost to the inconsistent Chelsea attack.
The friendly serves as an opportunity for him and fellow rising stars, such as Marco van Ginkel and Kevin De Bruyne, to show what they can bring to the table. Now's the chance to prove they deserve playing time moving forward.
Expect the Singha All-Stars to present a tricky test for Chelsea just like they did for Manchester United. They can't match the talent level of the Premier League sides, but they took advantage of the Red Devils' mistakes and overall lackluster play.
They will do the same to Chelsea if the Blues aren't careful. Don't expect to see midseason form out of John Terry and Co. It should be enough to pick up the win, though.
Prediction: Chelsea 3, Singha All-Stars 1