Chelsea Season Preview: Big test for European champions

Thomas Tuchel’s first full season in charge will see the manager aim to follow the Champions League trophy with more silverware.

Pre-season results

The most notable thing about Chelsea’s pre-season victories over Peterborough United and Bournemouth was the impressive form of forward Armando Broja, who scored in both outings. Tammy Abraham has also been involved in the July and August action, despite the England international being linked with a move away from west London. He made it three goals in three games in a narrow victory over Arsenal, while fringe players such as Baba Rahman, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Davide Zappacosta continued their involvement after returning from loan.

With countless players spending last season away from Stamford Bridge, we could yet see those with big roles in pre-season beginning the campaign elsewhere, be it on loan or off the back of permanent deals. But Tuchel’s first pre-season in west London is being used to give the German a feel for what everyone has to offer.

There have even been run-outs for the likes of Jake Clarke-Salter and Kenedy, two men who haven’t played a competitive minute for the Blues since Antonio Conte was in the dugout.

Transfer business

After a busy 2020 in the market, the Blues have been trimming their squad this summer. More than £50m has been brought in, with Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guéhi fetching more than £20m each, while long-serving squad players such as Victor Moses and Marco van Ginkel have moved on, as has veteran frontman Olivier Giroud, who is now at AC Milan.

Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour have both completed Premier League loans, and the club will have agreed the switches in anticipation of the midfield pair getting game time at Crystal Palace and Norwich City respectively. The outstanding question, however, concerns attacking investment, and it’s unlikely that goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli – essentially a replacement for the departed Willy Caballero – will end up being the only senior recruit.

At the time of writing, Chelsea are yet to reach an agreement to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the club, but if a deal is completed then one would expect others to move away to help balance the books.

A number of clubs are reportedly interested in Abraham, and there have been reports of a triangular move with Lukaku joining Chelsea, Duván Zapata replacing the Belgian at Inter and Abraham taking the Colombian’s place at Atalanta.

Any movement up front would raise questions about how Tuchel fits everyone into his system, with talk of Christian Pulisic potentially occupying a wing-back role and a chance for Kai Havertz to drop back into midfield following a spell as a false nine towards the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

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What the odds tell us

With Betfair Exchange odds of 6.86/1, Chelsea are second-favourites for the title, and a run of 11 wins from their last 18 games in 2020-21 is certainly something to build on. Only Manchester City had a better xGA record last season, and a full year of Tuchel could see that gap narrow even further.

The Blues are also 1.3130/100 to end the season in the top four and 1.011/100 to find themselves in the top half come May – they haven’t finished below 10th since back in 1995/96 – while their 500/1 relegation odds is the same as the price on them completing an unprecedented quadruple.