An unlucky deflection and lack of potency in the final third should not distract how far the game in Philadelphia on Thursday morning went in terms of fitness levels and tactics. Due to the array of substitutions, the Chelsea team was deployed in dimensions of 4–3–3, 4–2–3–1 and 4–2–2, sure signs of Roberto Di Matteo’s rich preparation for the new campaign; alternative designs in tactics and personnel we so desperately lacked under AVB being experimented. The team now move on to the final leg of their American tour, a preseason encounter with Italian Serie A runners–up AC Milan. With the mass exodus of Rossoneri starlets this summer, and the Blues still very much in transition, the match promises to be an unpredictable exhibition between two of European football titans.
In British media terms, the Rossoneri are a team in crisis. The fromageries and boulevards of the French capital were enough to snare troubled genius and irrefutable tosser Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazilian sick note Thiago Silva, leaving the Milan hierarchy to fuel rumours of a possible loan move for AC legend Kaká to appease their angry supporters, many of whom have stormed the club in recent days, demanding that their season tickets be refunded. The match against Chelsea will however see some recognisable faces; former Portsmouth midfielders Sulley Muntari and proverbial Wembley villa Kevin–Prince Boateng, not to mention the one time Chelsea bound Robinho. In and around the team; French stalwart Philippe Mexès, with contradictory pony tail attire, ex–Arsenal wantaway Mathieu Flamini as well as the finely spun Alexandre Pato. Last time out, AC beat a strong Schalke team 1–0 in Germany. Milan appears to have lost the elitist players that they have been attracted over the years, the generation of Gattuso, Shevchenko and Maldini now a fond memory to the Rossoneri faithful. Despite finishing runners–up in a strong Serie A last season, much depends on the movements of coach Massimiliano Allegri and “bunga bunga” fanatic Silvio Berlusconi in the transfer market if they are to mount a serious challenge in domestic and continental competitions this year.
Chelsea themselves will want to end their transatlantic tour with a good performance, and it will be interesting to see the way they set up against Milan. With Kevin de Bruyne departing for a season on loan at Bundesliga team Werder Bremen, and a much talked about season down the road at Craven Cottage gaining momentum for Romelu Lukaku, the 90 minutes at the Sun Life stadium in Miami may well provide the last chance for a couple of the youngsters to leave a mark in Roberto Di Matteo’s mind. Talking after the game against the MLS all Stars, RDM spoke of using our wider players to get up the pitch quicker to support our lone striker, be it Lukaku or the returning Fernando Torres; “he needs more support and we need more penetration, but that will come”. This leaves the competition between new signings Hazard, Marin and de Bruyne ripe, with the energetic Yossi Benayoun and Ramires also in contention. It would be good to see the attacking exploits of Hazard and Marin link up for the first time with Fernando Torres, with the coming season certain to define his career as a Blue. RDM will be raring to give Torres game time after his post European Championship vacation. Our defensive unit, the same players whom successfully guarded Petr Cech’s sticks versus European heavyweights Barcelona and Bayern have looked rather fragile, leaking goals against both Seattle and the MLS all Stars. A strong defensive performance is as important as a dynamic attacking one, with undesirable and indifferent defending a real characteristic of our poor Premier League campaign. With this, rumours of Cesar Azpilicueta’s availability from Marseille will also be known to the Chelsea players, a possible replacement for Jose Bosingwa as competition hots up for that right back spot.
In Olympic News, Ryan Bertrand put in a good shift for Team GB Thursday evening at Old Trafford, despite being beaten and bruised by a very forcible Senegalese team in a 1–1 draw. Daniel Sturridge was substituted after a half of roaming unchartered territory at the edge of the Senegal penalty box in the same game. New boy Oscar showed his worth for the Brazil team against Egypt setting up the first two goals, the first with a brilliant reverse ball inside to Man Utd’s Rafael and secondly with an unselfish squared ball after rounding the Egyptian keeper at a tight angle.
Chelsea v Milan kicks off at 11:30pm GMT in Miami.