Chelsea’s final match of pre-season will be held at Stamford Bridge against La Liga side Real Sociedad on Tuesday. The Spanish side were beaten by Newcastle United at the weekend and will be looking to end their pre-season tour of the UK with a win.
The Blues have faced some tough opponents this summer, but with the full squad back together, Jose Mourinho believes that their preparations for the Premier League opener against Burnley on August 18 are on track. Speaking to the official Chelsea website after the 2-1 win over Hungarian side Ferencvaros, he said:
It’s been a difficult pre-season because we started with seven players. After that, step by step, players were arriving after the World Cup and holidays. Finally, in this last week we’ve had everybody together but obviously not everyone is prepared. For example, [Branislav] Ivanovic has been training for one month, [Andre] Schurrle has trained for five days, so there is a big difference between players.
We have to play the first league match next weekend and we will be ready for that.
One of the biggest issues facing Mourinho ahead of the new season is deciding which of his two superstar goalkeepers will claim the starting spot. So far, he has rotated Thibaut Courtois and Petr Cech, who have both performed admirably—making some spectacular saves. Courtois will likely be handed his Stamford Bridge debut in Chelsea colours against Real Sociedad, and he will want to ensure that he remains between the sticks for the match at Burnley.
Defensively, the centre-half partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill shows no signs of being disturbed. The pair were key to Chelsea’s title challenge last season, and the spectre of Kurt Zouma waiting to snatch one of their spots will keep them at their best.
Cesar Azpilicueta seems to have reverted to his natural right-back position since the arrival of Filipe Luis, who should start at left-back.
Nemanja Matic was Chelsea’s key midfield man in the second half of last season and has kept that form up through the summer. However, it is the man who is likely to line up next to him who will make the difference in 2014-15.
Cesc Fabregas scored the winner in Hungary on Sunday with a fabulous individual goal. The control and confidence he displayed to finish his fine effort will stand him in good stead with the Chelsea supporters, despite his historic links to Arsenal. The goal capped off a series of excellent performances in which he has played the role of midfield maestro, linking up particularly well with new striker Diego Costa.
Ahead of Fabregas and Matic, Mourinho could opt to start what appears to be his first-choice attacking trio in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schurrle. Schurrle was particularly influential in the first half against Ferencvaros despite only training for five days, and he should have the chance to show off his World Cup medal to the fans who arrive early on Tuesday.
Didier Drogba limped off the pitch in Hungary after just 30 minutes, causing concern among supporters who are excited to welcome him back to Stamford Bridge. Mourinho is unlikely to risk him in the starting XI, but assuming his injury is not too serious, he could make an appearance from the bench on his return to the stadium he calls home.
Diego Costa should start up front in his place, especially considering the continuing calamity that is Fernando Torres.
It looks as if Jose Mourinho is getting a little bit tired of Fernando Torres doing Torres-y things. http://t.co/iWi7sto29I— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) August 11, 2014
With the Premier League season under a week away, it is highly unlikely that anybody will play the full 90 minutes. Surprise squad member Victor Moses should get a run-out, along with Mohamed Salah, Marco van Ginkel and Willian.
Although this game is of little importance in the grand scheme of things, the XI above represents Mourinho’s strongest side, and he will want to show them off to the home crowd before the season starts at Burnley.