For two hours on Saturday evening, all the noise around Chelsea will stop. The focus will be solely on the Goodison Park pitch as the Blues attempt to get their campaign off to a winning start against Frank Lampard’s Everton.
Chelsea’s preparations this summer haven’t exactly gone to plan. As things stand, only Kalidou Koulibaly, Raheem Sterling and Carney Chukwuemeka have been signed for the first team under the new ownership group of Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital while the pre-season trip to America left many in the squad – and seemingly Thomas Tuchel – drained.
Fortunately, back-to-back victories over Serie A side Udinese lifted the mood around Stamford Bridge and there is genuine hope Chelsea can do what they have so often failed to do in recent years: win at Goodison Park.
To achieve that, Tuchel will have to pick his strongest possible XI. There can be no easing players in or protecting those who are not potentially 100% match fit. And here, we select the team that we think the German will name for Saturday evening’s game in Merseyside.
GK: Edouard Mendy
Mendy’s form dipped during the second half of the last campaign and was still shaky in pre-season, but there is little doubt the Senegal international starts against Everton. Mendy hasn’t enjoyed victory in his two previous visits to Goodison Park, he will be hoping to change that on Saturday evening.
RCB: Cesar Azpilicueta
CM: N’Golo Kante
The Frenchman’s vaccination status meant he wasn’t able to go on Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the United States. Instead, Kante did fitness work with the Development Squad and Under-18s. His first meaningful game time this summer came against Udinese last week and Kante was excellent. He looks fresh and ready to go and is an automatic starter if available.
LWB: Ben Chilwell
Having recovered from a knee ligament injury in time to feature in the final game of last season, Chilwell has used this summer to rebuild his match fitness. The England international isn’t quite at the level he reached prior to his injury last November, but with Marc Cucurella not yet signed, Chilwell should start at left wing-back.
CAM: Mason Mount
Chelsea’s two-time Player of the Year is a shoo-in to start at Goodison Park, although whether he begins on the left or the right of the attack is difficult to predict. Mount reached double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League last term and will be hoping to yet again improve his output.
CAM: Kai Havertz
There is going to be extra scrutiny on the German this season with Romelu Lukaku no longer at Stamford Bridge. Havertz didn’t get on the scoresheet in Chelsea’s summer friendlies and his performances were somewhat lacklustre. He will have to showcase why he deserves a regular starting berth on Saturday.
CF: Raheem Sterling
Chelsea’s marquee attacking signing of the summer will be charged with leading the attack this season. Sterling has the experience and quality to do so and based on Chelsea’s last outing against Udinese, the England international will be given the freedom to roam across the frontline. It could prove hugely effective.