Chelsea’s pre-season exploits will come to an end this weekend when they take on Udinese on Friday evening.
The Blues have had a torrid time of things this summer, with the 4-0 thumping at the hands of Arsenal still fresh in the memory, and they’ll be desperate to sign off with a positive result to improve morale heading into the new campaign.
There are two games scheduled for the trip to Italy, with the first team taking to the pitch on Friday before the fringe players and development squad get a taste of the action 24 hours later.
Here’s all you need to know about the main event.
This will be the first time that Udinese and Chelsea have ever faced off.
New coach Andrea Sottil has no fitness issues to worry about and could look to make full use of his squad depth to round out the summer.
16-year-old Simone Pafundi and 18-year-old Ireland native James Abankwah have both featured in recent weeks and could get another run-out here.
Udinese predicted lineup vs Chelsea
(3-5-2): Padelli; Abankwah, Benkovic, Guessand; Ebosele, Pereyra, Jajalo, Bijol, Masina; Success, Beto
Nearly everyone on the books at Chelsea is in Italy and will see some minutes across either of the two games, but given Thomas Tuchel’s willingness to dispense of the academy players already this summer, don’t expect significant minutes from any of them.
N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are back with the gang after their vaccination status restricted them from joining up with the USA tour.
Amid questions over his future, Armando Broja could be in for his first minutes of the summer after shaking off an injury, although Kepa Arrizabalaga and Ross Barkley are not believed to be fit enough to feature.
Chelsea predicted lineup vs Udinese
(4-3-3): Mendy; James, Koulibaly, Silva, Chilwell; Jorginho, Gallagher; Mount, Havertz, Sterling; Pulisic
Usually, this would be a routine Chelsea victory. The Blues are the obvious favourites on paper, but the reality is they have been woeful this summer.
That being said, Chelsea do have the quality in their squad to see them through this one. The return of Kante could be significant, while starting new signing Kalidou Koulibaly could make a massive difference after he was the best player in blue against Arsenal.
It’s probably not going to be pretty, but a Chelsea win is on the cards.
Prediction: Udinese 1-2 Chelsea