Huddersfield Town vs Chelsea
Venue: The John Smith’s Stadium
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Maurizio Sarri will begin his debut season in the Premier League away at Huddersfield Town, as he takes the reins from former title winning manager, Antonio Conte.
Chelsea will begin the 2018/19 season in strong form, having only lost one of their last six preseason games. Huddersfield and Chelsea have locked horns 66 times in the past, the Terriers winning 27 of those whilst the Blues have claimed 29 victories; only 10 of the games have ended in a tie.
The Terriers retained their Premier League status last May against the Blues, a match which ended level at Stamford Bridge and ensured that David Wagner’s side navigated clear of relegation and steered themselves towards the 2018/19 season.
Looking on to the new season, Huddersfield will be hoping to avoid another dogfight, and they seem to have the tools to do so. Their summer spending is up to £45 million and they will now have the invaluable addition of a year’s experience in the Premier League; the Terriers will be going into their first game strong minded and optimistic towards the task in hand.
Record signing Kepa will be expected to start in goal for Chelsea on Saturday, with his £71.5 million transfer from Athletic Bilbao confirmed on the penultimate day of the transfer window.
Midfielder Matteo Kovacic has arrived at Stamford Bridge on a season-long loan from Real Madrid but the fixture against Huddersfield is likely to come too soon for the Croatian international following his post-World Cup break. This could see Ross Barkley regain his place in the starting XI alongside new signing Jorginho from Italian side Napoli.
Maurizio Sarri added how it’s “unlikely” that the talented trio of N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard will all start, but based on the pre-season game against Manchester City and how vulnerable his side looked, the new boss might be tempted to call upon the French midfielder.
For the hosts, Danny Williams is the only injury doubt and is unavailable with an ankle problem, with Elias Kachunga ready to play after recovering from from an ankle injury.
New signings Adama Diakhaby and Erik Durm could start – while Ramadan Sobhi is likely to be on the bench.
David Wagner used the 5-3-2 formation against both Chelsea and Manchester City last and achieved results, so it is highly likely that he’ll use this set-up once more against Chelsea.
What the managers say
Huddersfield head coach David Wagner speaking to Yorkshire Post:
“I had a good off-season and came back ready for what will again be a very big challenge. We are ready.”
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri:
“I am very happy I can work with all my players for the first time on Wednesday.
“Potentially we can become, in two or three months, a very good team.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Huddersfield: Lossl; Hadergjonaj, Schindle, Zanka, Kongolo; Mooy, Hogg, Van La Parra, Pritchard; Diakhaby, Mounie
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Alonso, Luiz, Rudiger; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Hazard, Pedro, Morata
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1 Chelsea 0
The opening game of the season last year got Huddersfield off to a flying start and imported some momentum into their campaign.
Their business in the transfer window has been impressive, and the lack of World Cup action will certainly benefit their squad. Based on this, and Chelsea’s rusty game against City last week, I’m predicting a home win.