It was a quiet summer for Chelsea as they came to terms with a two-window transfer ban, but now they can finally look forward to their first game of the new season, against Manchester United on Sunday.
It will be Frank Lampard’s first match as Blues boss, and he will likely set up in a different formation to his predecessor Maurizio Sarri. Here, we predict his maiden starting XI as manager of the Stamford Bridge outfit.
Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal. The Spain international is the most expensive goalkeeper in history and after a solid debut season with 14 Premier League clean sheets he remains the obvious choice between the sticks.
Cesar Azpilicueta should start at right-back and will also captain the side. At centre-back, there is little choice but to start with Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen following David Luiz’s transfer to Arsenal. Antonio Rudiger is lacking match fitness after his injury, whilst Fikayo Tomori is probably too inexperienced to start such an important fixture.
There is a difficult decision to make at left-back, with Emerson and Marcos Alonso both viable options. However, the Brazilian will probably get the nod. He started Chelsea’s last pre-season match against Borussia Monchengladbach and is slightly more suited to Lampard’s style of play.
In central midfield, Jorginho is almost guaranteed to start. Alongside him, N’golo Kante should appear. Whilst he has not played too often in the warm-up games, he is world-class in his position and well worth the risk. The key here, though, is the difference in structure, with both midfielders playing as a deep-lying two rather than the Italian serving as a solitary anchor.
Christian Pulisic is in line to make his competitive debut on the right, whilst Pedro should start on the opposite flank. With Willian lacking match fitness and Callum Hudson-Odoi injured, he has an easy path to the first team.
The attacking midfield spot, meanwhile, provides Lampard with another conundrum. Mason Mount and Ross Barkley have both impressed during pre-season, but the latter’s experience may give him the advantage in this first game.
Up front, there is a big choice to make between Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham. This could go either way, but the fact that the manager went with Abraham against Monchengladbach indicates that he is the slight favourite.