Manager: Frank Lampard
Domestic Record: 2-2-1
Last Result: Chelsea 5-2 Wolves
Formation: 4-3-3 (Chelsea have primarily played a 4-3-3 but have also experimented with a 4-2-3-1 and most recently a 3-4-2-1)
Manager: Albert Celades
Domestic Record: 1-1-2
Last Result: Valencia 2-5 Barcelona
Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news for Chelsea fans is that Chelsea are coming of a 5-2 stuffing of Wolves over the weekend and Tammy Abraham is looking pretty much invincible right now, scoring a hat trick at the Molineux. Taking this momentum into Tuesday’s home tie against Valencia will be key to a good result.
As I mentioned in a previous post, a bright spot early on in Chelsea’s season is the incredibly promising performance of Chelsea’s youngsters as of late. All 11 of Chelsea’s Premier League goals have come from former Academy players. This team are playing an incredibly exciting style of football right now, albeit incredibly frustrating at times as well. While they have scored 11 goals in 4 matches, they have let in just as many, with only Norwich conceding more (12).
Now the bad news. Valencia are currently sitting 13th in LaLiga and just suffered a 5-2 defeat to Barcelona in the first game under newly appointed manager Albert Celades. Valencia had just sacked their previous manager Marcelino on Wednesday, three matches into the new season, so it’s understandable that Valencia may not be in top form by the weekend, especially against a juggernaut like Barcelona. And far be it from me to criticize a team suffering a huge loss in a managerial debut.
What is funny about this sacking, to the extent that a sacking can be funny, are Marcelino’s comments on why he thinks he was fired. According to Marcelino, he is convinced that he was fired because he won the Copa Del Rey last season. Yes, you read that right. He believes that because he was told to not worry about the Copa and instead focus on LaLiga, and then he went on to win the Copa, he was fired. Which doesn’t make sense for a few reasons. One, no one has ever, or will ever, be sacked for winning something. On top of that, if this was in fact the reason he was fired, why wasn’t he fired back in April? AND, Valencia finished fourth in LaLiga last season, securing Champions League play this season.
No, the probable reason he was fired is that Valencia are 1-1-2 to start the season, having only secured 4 points in as many matches and only scoring five goals. Even still, it seems like it was a bit of a quick trigger finger on the part of ownership. Indeed, the firing was pretty much universally panned by players and fans of Valencia, further adding to the chaos.
Players to Watch
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. I love Tammy Abraham. Tammy is an absolutely electric player, with plenty of pace and fantastic footwork that really opens up his chances inside the box. An incredibly instinctual number nine, he always knows where he is in relation to the goal, and his height gives him an advantage over a lot of opposing defenders. Valencia will be a tough challenge, but expect a solid showing from the youngster.
On a related note, Callum Hudson Odoi, coming off of an Achilles injury sustained last season, might be called up as a first team sub for this match. Hudson-Odoi played with the U-23s over the weekend against Brighton and has been back in training for about the last three weeks. It will be interesting to see if Lampard calls him up, most likely as a sub, though, not in the starting XI.
Honestly, they’ve been pretty uninspiring thus far. Nothing great, nothing terrible (other than that loss against Barcelona). In fact, if I had to name a player to watch, it would probably be Barcelona’s former back up keeper and Netherlands starting man between the sticks, Jasper Cillessen. Having spent much of his career playing back-up to ter Stegen, Cillessen completed a move to Valencia over the summer and, despite last weekend’s result, has performed well, earning Man of the Match against Celta Vigo. In fact, I know revisionist history really doesn’t matter, but if we take away last weekend’s score line, Cillessen would have only let in two goals through the first three matches, keeping a clean sheet against Mallorca.
Even though these clubs are on completely different trajectories, with Valencia spiraling out of control and Chelsea seemingly coalescing under Lampard, this UCL match will be a huge stage for a lot of Chelsea’s younger players. While I still think they will perform well, I expect a 2-2 draw at the Bridge on Sunday, with a goal again from Abraham and a surprise score from the Batman himself Michy Batshuayi, who spent most of last season on loan at Valencia. No love lost for Los Che.
Is there something you’d like to see me add to these previews? Something you think these previews could do without? Hit me up on Twitter @BrianAngelino. These previews will be an ever-evolving endeavor, and any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated.
Author: Brian Angelino, “Originally from The Great State of North Carolina, I’ve just started following the premier league again after a traumatic experience as a child where I wore a Chelsea jacket in the wrong part of London. For more questionably hot takes, follow him on Twitter @BrianAngelino