Chelsea meet J-League champions Kawasaki Frontale on Friday morning as Frank Lampard’s side ramp up their pre-season schedule in Asia ahead of the new Premier League season. They will be looking to continue on from their 4-0 victory over St Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland. A 25-man squad is in Japan for two games, including one against La Liga giants Barcelona, where they have also been boosted by the arrival of £58m-signing Christian Pulisic.
The England international faces almighty competition for that attacking midfield role with Lampard’s protege Mason Mount firmly in sight for a starting berth next season, especially after committing his long-term future to the club. The youngster thrived under the Chelsea legend whilst both were still at Championship club Derby County last term where the 20-year-old played 44 times for The Rams, scoring 11 and assisting six. A stark contrast to Barkley’s season as he struggled to maintain a spot under former boss Maurizio Sarri – the 25-year-old only started 13 of his 27 Premier League appearances, scoring just three goals and assisting five. The former Everton ace was once so highly-regarded by Xavi that he claimed the midfielder would fit right in at Barcelona – I think that goes to show how much Barkley has underperformed since then. I think it’s fair to suggest that Jorginho and N’Golo Kante will be the main choices in midfield, leaving one spot potentially up for grabs and it’ll be fought between these two being the more attacking options they have in their ranks.
N’Golo Kante’s return
The lovable Frenchman hasn’t been seen yet in pre-season as he still recovers from a knee injury which was suffered at the end of last season. He did manage to feature in the Europa League triumph over local rivals Arsenal but was absent from France‘s 2020 European Championship qualifiers against Turkey and Andorra last month. Lampard mentioned in his press conference that he hopes Kante will take part in one of the games whilst in Japan, seeing as he’s made the trip – also saying he doesn’t see him taking too long so maybe that means the 28-year-old will feature at some point on Friday.
A more settled XI
Lampard has tinkered with a number of formations, players and starting XIs throughout both of their pre-season games in Ireland but as the schedule moves on and players’ fitness levels increase, I expect to see a more solid foundation. Each half of each game has seen an entirely new line-up out on the pitch, that should change over in Japan with Lampard trying to integrate his own system amongst the players he sees starting for him in the upcoming Premier League season. Not many of the youth contingent that travelled to Ireland is here in Japan which would reinforce the possibility of seeing a regular team of choice.