The Italian stallion Antonio Conte is all set to start his journey with Chelsea FC after taking the Azzuri to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. He will have five games in pre-season to help him analyze the squad and identify strengths and weaknesses before it’s a headfirst dive into the all-action Premier League.
Chelsea have five games scheduled for a pre-season tour that will help Conte cut his teeth as the new manager. The club first travel to Austria, where they face two of the established Austrian Bundesliga clubs in Rapid Vienna on the 16th of July and Wolfsberger AC three days later. The two encounters should be relatively straightforward as they come up against much weaker opposition.
The Blues will then go on to play in the group stages of the International Champions Cup, where they face three intriguing match-ups. Chelsea come up against Liverpool, Real Madrid and AC Milan in the American version of the ICC, and the friendlies though inconsequential, will go a long way in helping Conte assess his new team.
28th July, 2016
Rose Bowl, Pasedena
The first big Premier League manager that Conte will come up against is German mastermind Jurgen Klopp, who has revitalized Liverpool’s hopes in the past 9 months. The Red will definitely be a side to watch out for as they unleash their new signings like Sadio Mane, Joel Matip and Marko Grujic on their Premier League rivals.
This should prove to be an interesting tactical battle, as Klopp’s gegenpressing approach comes up against a line-up guided by the hand of the Italian defensive and counter-attacking maestro. Both of the managers rely on a high level of physicality, stamina and concentration from their players in order to implement the system. However it will definitely not match up to the two teams’ high octane league encounters, as neither team will be looking to reveal too many of their cards before the new Premier League season begins.
Both teams will be without some of their big names, who are still recovering from their exertions at Euro 2016. While the Reds will probably miss Welshman Joe Allen and German midfielder Emre Can, Chelsea will be without their Belgian contingent of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and new signing Michy Batshuayi.
30th July, 2016
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
A couple of days after their game against Liverpool, Chelsea will face the Champions League title holders Real Madrid. Real had a dominant season last time around, winning the Champions League and missing out on the La Liga title by just one point. Manager Zinedine Zidane will be looking to mix things up a bit in this friendly, with a number of their less experienced players like Lucas Vasquez, Jese, Kiko Casilla and Marco Asensia likely to feature. Chelsea target Alvaro Morata could also feature in the game, although it remains to be seen which side he will be on.
This match will be made interesting by the history between these two teams, which is non-existent. The last time Chelsea faced Real Madrid was in the UEFA Super Cup in 1998, where they won 1-0. Their previous two encounters came as far back as 1971 in the now defunct UEFA European Cup Winners Cup, where the Blues won one and drew the other match.
In this regard, Los Blancos could be looking to improve on their record against Chelsea in Europe when they meet in America.
4th August, 2016
US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
By the time August rolls around, Chelsea’s preparations for the upcoming Premier League season will already be in full swing. AC Milan are another club that the Blues have not come up against too often; in 5 matches they’ve lost one, won one and drawn three.
One big reason to look forward to this match is that both clubs will have had a few transfer signings done and dusted by then. While fallen giants AC Milan will be starting the rejuvenation process after an infusion of Chinese investment, Chelsea will be sure to have added a few more of their top transfer targets to the squad by then.
With the beginning of the new season looming, this match could provide the perfect opportunity for Conte to employ some of the fringe players of his squad like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy, Matt Miazga and Baba Rahman, who will all be fighting for a chance to impress and find a spot in the Italian’s starting XI.