The start of the Premier League season is upon us, and to open the season, Chelsea travel to the John Smith’s Stadium to take on Huddersfield.
It’s the first Premier League match under new manager Maurizio Sarri, and on Saturday, Chelsea will hope for a better outcome than last Sunday’s Community Shield where they were thoroughly outplayed by Manchester City to the tune of a 2-0 defeat.
With another week of training under their belt and the return of the players who made it to the final days of the World Cup, Chelsea’s squad is closer to being at full strength than they were on Sunday.
For the trip to Huddersfield, it’s unclear if any of the late returnees will feature in the match. Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud, and Gary Cahill all returned to training this week, and all four featured in the second half of Tuesday’s friendly against Lyon.
But on Tuesday night, supporters got a better idea of what Sarri’s style of play will look like this season once Hazard and Kante were introduced, although the manager is quick to point out that the squad is still a work in progress in terms of adapting to the system.
One issue that is of concern to Chelsea is the defence. One of the strengths of the side under Antonio Conte, the switch to a back four under Sarri has left a lot of work to be done. David Luiz once again hasn’t looked comfortable as part of a back four, and his partnership with Antonio Rudiger has had mixed results, notably being exposed by Sergio Aguero on Sunday.
Luckily, Chelsea will be facing a Huddersfield side whose main problem last season was scoring goals and generating chances.
Despite David Wagner’s side barely escaping relegation with results against Chelsea and Manchester City in the last weeks of last season, the problems for Huddersfield largely remain the same.
Huddersfield failed to score in 21 of their 38 matches last season. Even though both Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre look capable of scoring goals, creating chances for them was a real problem due to being played up front on their own.
To attempt to help matters, Huddersfield did dip into the transfer market this summer to bring in two talented young wingers in Ramadan Sobhi from Stoke City and Adama Diakhaby from Monaco. However, both suffer from the same issue of inconsistency in the final third. If they can find some consistency from the wings to add to the creativity of Alex Pritchard in central midfield, Huddersfield can provide a threat in attack.
This might be the best time of the season to play Chelsea because it’s not clear who Maurizio Sarri is playing and because of a slow pre-season for the Blues. Perhaps Huddersfield will be buoyed by a little bit of extra belief and the support of the home crowd in their first match of the season. But if Chelsea’s defence can show a bit of organization, it’s going to be a tough day for Huddersfield at home.