The Blues get their new Premier League season started in West Yorkshire on Saturday, with a trip to Huddersfield first up for Maurizio Sarri. Of course, they lost to Man City in the Community Shield last Sunday but this is their first 100% competitive game and having endured a tough season last term they will be desperate to start with a win.
Under Antonio Conte the defending Premier League champions finished fifth, some five points shy of a Champions League spot. That means they will be in the Europa League this term and before that competition gets started on 20th September they will want to have accrued as many points as possible.
Their opponents on Saturday have different concerns and, as 12 months ago, simply surviving in the top flight will represent a brilliant achievement for the small club. The Terriers finished the 2017-18 campaign in a respectable 16th place and given their budget they would surely be happy with that outcome again. They were strong on home soil last term though and will be eyeing a win here as they hope to start the new season with an upset against one of the big boys.
Team News: What is Sarri’s Best XI?
New boss Sarri has had the summer to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of this squad and with the transfer window now shut he knows exactly what cards he has to play. The big question is, does the former Napoli man know his best hand? Preparations have been somewhat hit by the involvement of a number of players in the World Cup, whilst transfer speculation around the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian also haven’t helped.
Of course, there are some things we do know, chiefly that there will be no Thibaut Courtois, following the Belgian’s move to Real Madrid. Replacement Kepa cost a huge sum, so it will be interesting to see how he settles in at the Bridge. We also know that Sarri will play his usual formation, meaning a return to four at the back. Alvaro Morata is likely to have Hazard and Willian behind him, whilst new boy Jorginho and N’Golo Kante will be joined in midfield by either Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley or possibly Mateo Kovačić if the Real loanee is deemed ready.
The Blues essentially have a fully fit squad and with a likely back four of César Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger and Marcos Alonso it is the final midfield place that seems the only question mark.
The Terriers have a few injury concerns and will have some late fitness tests, with midfielder Danny Williams the only player definitely absent. New striker Adama Diakhaby should start and David Wagner’s men will probably feature a few new faces after a relatively busy summer. Big money signing Terence Kongolo will strengthen Huddersfield’s defence but with a total of 13 new players to integrate, quite how well the home side will gel remains to be seen.
Obviously there isn’t too much of real note to go on for either side here. Chelsea’s game with City was the most competitive either side has played since the end of last season and we really don’t want to read an awful lot into pre-season friendlies.
That said, the home team should, in theory at least, be full of confidence for this clash. Their final warm-up saw them beat RB Lipzig 3-0, with new striker Diakhaby scoring. A raft of changes were made in that game but it remains a positive result and saw the Terriers play 3-5-2, which we expect here against the Blues. Prior to that, Wagner’s men saw off Bologna and Lyon and they have had a good build-up, scoring goals with relative ease.
Huddersfield v Chelsea Head to Head
Despite their poor season last term the Blues recorded a big 3-1 win at the Kirklees Stadium. Given how strong Wagner’s men were on home soil and how few goals they conceded, that was a fine result. More of the same would certainly be nice here, although the most recent clash, in the penultimate game of last season, was less pleasing.
- Chelsea 1-1 Huddersfield, May 2018
- Huddersfield 1-3 Chelsea, Feb 2017
- Chelsea 3-1 Huddersfield, Feb 2008
- Chelsea 2-1 Huddersfield, Jan 2006
- Chelsea 0-1 Huddersfield, Oct 1999
- Under 2.5 goals – 17/20 with BetVictor
- Draw – 3/1 with Bet365
Chelsea are big favourites here but we have a bad feeling that this might not be the easiest of games. Huddersfield have had a magnificent pre-season and will be confident they can get a result on home soil. Last season they were hard to break down in front of their own fans and with a raucous atmosphere guaranteed the Blues could struggle.
Last season games at the Kirklees saw a total of just 41 goals at an average of 2.15 per game. Wagner knows that a draw would be a solid result here and whilst we don’t expect them to play for such a result we certainly don’t expect them to go all out for the win either. They will fight for every ball and give the Blues a real game and the draw looks overpriced here at big odds of 3/1.
Chelsea are available at just 8/13 and sadly we can’t back them at that price, despite their 3-1 win here last term. Sarri has some big changes to implement in terms of style and that will take time. Moreover, with the European transfer window still open, there remains a chance that Hazard will be agitating for a move and things are certainly not as rosy off the pitch as would be ideal.
We expect a tight game here and although we don’t see the home side winning (11/2 Bet365) we do think they can nick a point. The 1-1 stalemate would be our correct score tip but we’ll play it safer and back the draw instead, in what is likely to be a low scoring clash, despite Sarri’s preference for attacking football.