Chelsea face a stern challenge in Barcelona
Premier League champions Chelsea face La Liga winners Barcelona in their final match of this year’s star-studded International Champions’ Cup, hopeful of building momentum ahead of their season opener against Swansea in a fortnight.
Jose Mourinho’s side have had a mixed pre-season, after falling to a 4-2 defeat against New York Red Bulls and beating PSG on penalties 1-1 (6-5). The opening loss was particularly damaging, considering Red Bulls fielded a reserve team; Mourinho’s stunned, furious reaction to the four second half goals – provided by teenagers – was understandable. There will be a greater emphasis on fielding a strong first eleven in Chelsea’s final match, and fans can expect a glamorous fixture on Wednesday morning.
Radamel Falcao is likely to make an appearance with a full strength squad available to Chelsea. Barcelona are without Lionel Messi and Neymar, whilst new signings Alex Vidal and Arda Turan are unavailable until January owing to a transfer embargo.
Chelsea’s transfer activity has been unusually quiet thus far, although Mourinho has not expressed any particular frustration with the absence of first-team acquisitions. A central midfielder and winger – to replace Juan Cuadrardo – are being scouted for, and John Stones is likely to join the club before the Premier League season begins.
There will be plenty of world-class players on display for Barcelona, and indeed Chelsea’s ability to match the Champions’ League holders may go some way to deciding whether Mourinho dips into the transfer market before September 1st.
Even without two of their star forwards, Barcelona can be expected to win this match. They are favourites to win the Champions’ League again this season and become the first team to retain the title since AC Milan a quarter of a century ago. Last season the superstar trio of Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez netted 122 times – more than the entire Chelsea squad combined.
Many have predicted another Barcelona victory, but after the shambolic display in their opening match and subsequent Mourinho wrath, expect a compact and organised Chelsea display. If betting on Barcelona v Chelsea, back the draw at 11/5.
Kick-off is 1am on Wednesday, 29th July, at the FedEx Field stadium.