Chelsea will kickstart the Maurizio Sarri era with an away trip to the John Smith Stadium, where they will take on Huddersfield Town.
Chelsea will get their 2018-19 Premier League campaign underway with a clash against David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues will be ushering in a new era under manager Maurizio Sarri, following their disappointing last season under Antonio Conte. The former Napoli manager hasn’t had much time to impress his ideas upon his new side, as was visible in their 2-0 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Community Shield game last week.
They did manage to edge out Olympique Lyon on penalties during the midweek. Having finished outside the top four last time out, Chelsea will be hoping to bounce back stronger and a winning start to the campaign on Saturday should set the tone for a solid season.
Huddersfield Town finished 16th in the 2017-18 season, which was their first in the Premier League, just about managing to avoid the relegation. And manager David Wagner will be hoping to improve his team’s fortunes this time out.
The Terriers had a strong end to their pre-season, registering impressive victories against the likes of RB Leipzig, Bologna and Olympique Lyon, having failed to beat Accrington Stanley and Real Betis early on. They will be keen on hitting the ground running, against a Chelsea side that is yet to get going.
Team News and Tactics
The home side will come into the game without the services of midfielder Danny Williams due to injury, while new signing Erik Durm will miss out due to lack of match fitness. Deadline day arrival Isaac Mbenza is also unlikely to be involved on Saturday.
Wagner is likely to set his team up in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, despite having tried the three-man backline on occasion during the pre-season. Summer signing Ben Hamer has impressed during the pre-season and may just have done enough to edge out Jonas Lossl in goal for Saturday’s game.
Captain Tommy Smith should start as the right-back for the Terriers, with Terence Kongolo likely to slot in on the opposite side, after having made his loan move a permanent one this summer. In the heart of the defence, the reliable partnership of Christopher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen should feature again.
Jonathan Hogg will man the middle of the park and look to disrupt Chelsea’s passing rhythm. He will be ably supported by last season’s standout player Aaron Mooy, who will also be key in launching attacks with his creative abilities. Much will also depend on playmaker Alex Pritchard’s ability to open up the Blues’ defence from the No.10 role, with his vision and creativity.
Summer signings Ramadan Sobhi and Adama Diakhaby are likely to cause some problems with their pace and guile from the right and left flanks respectively. Spearheading the attack for the Terriers on Saturday will be Benin international Steve Mounie.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Hamer; Smith, Schindler, Jorgensen, Kongolo; Hogg, Mooy; Sobhi, Pritchard, Diakhaby; Mounie;
Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, signed for a world record fee on the deadline day, is unlikely to be involved on the opening day. Same can be said about midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who also arrived on Thursday, on loan from Real Madrid. Late returnees Eden Hazard, Olivier Giroud and N’Golo Kante may not be involved from the start either.
Chelsea will take the field on Saturday in Sarri’s trademark 4-3-3 formation. With Thibaut Courtois gone and Arrizabalaga only joining the team, Willy Caballero is likely to start under the crossbar on Saturday. He will be protected by a back four comprising of Spaniards Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso as the full-backs with David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger in the heart of the defence.
With Kante unlikely to feature in the middle of the park, Cesc Fabregas is likely to get the nod, while Ross Barkley seems to have found a new lease of life under Sarri. Summer signing Jorginho will occupy the deeper role of the three midfielders and act as the conduit between the two halves of the pitch.
Brazilian attacker Willian looked bright in the game against Lyon during the midweek and could edge Pedro out of the starting XI for the spot on the right-flank. However, Hazard is likely to start on the bench on Saturday, meaning the star of the pre-season, youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi should get a look-in on the left-side of the front three.
Leading the line for the West Londoners will be former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard still seems to be struggling with confidence, but needs to find his goalscoring boots soon, if Chelsea are to have a flying start to the new season.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Caballero; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Fabregas, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hudson-Odoi;
- Huddersfield Town have lost 10 Premier League games in 2018, more than any other side.
- Chelsea lost to Burnley in their first fixture last year – it’s their only season-opening league defeat in the past 19 seasons (W15, D3).
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League visits to Yorkshire (W6, D2) since a 2-0 loss at Leeds in 2002.
- In total, the Terriers scored 28 goals last season, a joint-Premier League low with Swansea City. The Terriers failed to net in 21 of their 38 top-flight matches.
- Maurizio Sarri lost his opening league fixture in his two previous top-flight jobs, with Empoli in 2014 and Napoli in 2015.
1. Chelsea to win @ 1.61
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 2.00
1. Steve Mounie to score anytime @ 4.00
Player to watch
Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
After enjoying a sensational start to life in England, Morata has faded off at an alarming rate since the festive period last season. The former Real Madrid and Juventus man has scored just one goal in 14 Premier League appearances since Boxing Day, which is just not acceptable from the leading striker of a team hoping to compete for the title.
The 25-year old failed to make much of an impression during the pre-season as well. However, Chelsea have decided to keep their faith in him and haven’t recruited a new centre-forward this summer. He will need to start repaying that faith with goals, starting from Saturday’s tie against Huddersfield.
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Chelsea
Huddersfield had a strong end to their pre-season, registering three victories on a row against strong opposition. However, they still seem to be lacking that bit of quality to cause problems to a team like Chelsea.
The Blues themselves have a number of issues that need to be dealt with heading into the new season. However, in spite of that, the gulf of class between the two sets of players is likely to be the difference on Saturday and as a result we expect Chelsea to begin the new season with three points in the bag against the Terriers.