It has been a few summers since you got the sense that Chelsea really mean business in the Premier League, but all the signs coming out of Stamford Bridge since the season’s end tell us that Roman Abramovich has that glint in his eye once more.
Perhaps spurred on by the historic Champions League victory over Bayern Munich, Chelsea’s Russian owner has well and truly forgotten any thoughts of youth progressing and cost-cutting and is throwing money about with the sort of abandon he hasn’t displayed for years.
It is a far cry from a couple of seasons ago, when Chelsea seemed to be heading down a path of austerity as Abramovich moved on big earners such as Joe Cole and Michael Ballack and instructed then manager Carlo Ancelotti to put his emphasis on bringing through players from the academy.
That policy is out of the window. Chelsea have spent the best part of £60 million on three young, vibrant attacking players in Lille’s Eden Hazard, Werder Bremen’s Marko Marin and, this week, Internacional playmaker Oscar and Roberto di Matteo will have a new-look side to help with his assault on the Premier League title.
What this means for financial fair play is anyone’s guess (including, one suspects, FIFA’s) but Chelsea, spurred on by Manchester City’s ascent to the summit, are now back in the game.
You would think that the final piece in the jigsaw – Pep Guardiola in the manager’s hot seat – is what Abramovich craves for next season (it is an open secret that Di Matteo is just keeping that seat warm for a more world-renowned name), but with the respect of the players and the financial backing of the owner, the Italian will be looking forward to the new season with relish.
And a new, more attack-minded Chelsea has been in evidence in pre-season so far. A win, a draw and a loss have come by the scorelines 4-2,1-1 and 3-2 – the sort of matches Abramovich has longed to see at the Bridge – and their next fixture against AC Milan in Miami threatens to be another entertaining affair.
Chelsea are 13/10 favourites to win, while Milan are priced up at 7/4 with the draw quoted at 11/5 and I fancy Chelsea to take the spoils in another game that provides a few goals.
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After all, Italian giants Milan have had a tough few months. Having seen rivals Juventus go the season unbeaten to land the Serie A title – all masterminded by the player they deemed surplus to requirements last summer, Andrea Pirlo – the decision to sell both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to big-spending Paris Saint Germain has gone down so badly with supporters that some staged mock funerals outside the club’s training ground.
With other club legends Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and Gennaro Gattuso also leaving the club this summer, the Milan hierarchy have had to refund season tickets for disgruntled fans unhappy at the club’s direction.
The Rossoneri still have fine players, but the club seems at a crossroads and I think Chelsea can take advantage on Saturday.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side have lost to both Juventus and Inter Milan this pre-season and appear to be out of sorts. Chelsea are scoring goals and already look dangerous in the final third and they have enough to cause MIlan problems.
I like the 13/10 about Chelsea and will also have an outside punt that Chelsea’s entertaining pre-season carries on with a little play on the 13/5 that the Blues’ win features over 2.5 goals.
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