It’s almost time for friendly number two as Chelsea head from their training base in Florida to Charlotte, North Carolina, to take on MLS side Charlotte FC. Thomas Tuchel’s side once again takes on an opposition that is in the cut and thrust of their season, which should ensure an instense affair for the Blues’ squad.
Chelsea have already made changes to their group, with Armando Broja, Harvey Vale, Billy Gilmour, and Tino Anjorin having departed the squad. The latter trio have joined up with the Blues’ development squad, while striker Broja has returned to London for treatment on an injury.…CONTINUE READING
There remains a group of 28 players, all trying to impress the German coach, some of whose futures may lie
football.london takes a look at what could emerge this evening below:
Raheem Sterling debut
The message from Tuchel was simple concerning Raheem Sterling: “Raheem is absolutely ready to go tomorrow. He will be on the pitch tomorrow, and I am happy about that, and he is excited to play his first match.”
The £45 million signing will don Chelsea colours for the first time in a match when the Blues line up to face Charlotte. It will be the first step towards a vision of the Blues under new ownership, with Tuchel’s priority target taking to the pitch and a signal Chelsea are just a step closer to being ready for the season.
He may be joined by fellow newbie Kalidou Koulibaly, though Tuchel was cautious over his prospects. Maybe the Senegal international may prove persuasive, however.
Tuchel said: “We are a bit torn, and I have to speak to him, to be honest, about what we do tomorrow. We will decide later in the afternoon. He has done some training sessions with us, but he is still in a very individual programme, so there are no double sessions on the pitch.
“He trains with the team, but, of course, as you can imagine, there are players who are in their third week of preparation and at a completely different level of foundation physically. That is not a good match for him to straight start with a team and straight away play. I don’t want to rule it out completely, but it is very likely that he will not play. We will not see him on the pitch.”
Players who didn’t feature last time
New signings aren’t the only players who could be set to feature for the first time this pre-season. Mateo Kovacic and Levi Colwill were not fit enough to take to the pitch against Club America but have been involved in training since. The duo will give the Blues even greater depth, and while no move is completed for Prancel Kimpembe or Jules Kounde, there may be an opportunity for Colwill.
For Tuchel, there is still a great deal of uncertainty around Colwill’s prospects this season. If he is fit enough, his first outing for the first team might be significant for the 48-year-old Chelsea boss to make an informed judgement.
Tuchel said: “With Levi, it is too early to give an answer. What I will say now is that I maybe have to take back or give another opinion in a few weeks. I simply haven’t seen enough of him in our group. He got a bit of an injury and was out of training for several days. Once you are out, it takes a while to catch up against, especially those who aren’t used to that level.
“The fact he is still here is very easy. We don’t know him enough, so he needs to stay here. We need more impressions of him to get a better outlook on the situation. But like what Chalobah did last season, everyone is invited to do the same.”
A surprisingly good atmosphere
Friendlies can be flat affairs as teams prepare for the coming season and look to build fitness to reach their peak as much as aim for a result. Chelsea will have the challenge of playing a team already 21 games into their season, and Charlotte will no doubt relish the rare opportunity of taking on an elite European team.
It’s not only the players who may be up to speed, however, with the potential for a strong atmosphere to emerge from the Bank of America Stadium, also home to NFL side the Carolina Panthers. The ground is home to a supporters section that produces a tifo for each of their home matches and have a unique role in the form of a Chief Fan Officer.