Football Features

Chelsea Club World Cup preview: Blues looking to complete the set under Roman Abramovich

By Harry Edwards

Chelsea Club World Cup preview: Blues looking to complete the set under Roman Abramovich

Published: 19:03, 2 February 2022 | Updated: 17:35, 7 February 2022

Chelsea will be looking to become just the third English team to win the Club World Cup when they set off for the United Arab Emirates.

Thomas Tuchel’s men earned their spot in the tournament by beating Manchester City in the 2020/21 Champions League final, their second crown after previously winning in 2012.

The Blues enter the tournament at the semi-final stages, given preference as UEFA’s Champions League representatives and will face one of Aj Jazira (UAE), AS Pirae (Tahiti) and Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia).

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Five things to know about Chelsea

  • This will be Chelsea’s second appearance at the Club World Cup, having previously finished runners-up in 2012. They were the last UEFA Champions League winners not to win the Club World Cup.
  • Only Liverpool (14) have won more European and worldwide competitions than Chelsea’s eight among English teams.
  • The Club World Cup is the last available trophy missing from Chelsea’s cabinet under Roman Abramovich having sealed the UEFA Super Cup at the start of the season (excluding the UEFA Conference League).
  • Chelsea are the only men’s team from London to win the Champions League.
  • Chelsea won the 2020/21 Champions League with nine clean sheets from their 13 games, and trailed for just over five minutes.

More on the Club World Cup

Best defender

At the age of 37, Thiago Silva is still one of the top defenders in the world and he remains Chelsea’s key centre-back, which was why they prioritised his new deal ahead of others this season.

There wasn’t much fanfare made when Silva joined Chelsea at the start of last season, seen by some as a desperate move to add experience to a struggling back line under Frank Lampard. Things didn’t get off to the best start either as Silva struggled in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with West Brom in which they went 3-0 down at half-time. But Silva quickly got back to his best and, especially under Tuchel, has thrived. Without Silva in the middle of their trio, there is no Chelsea defence.

Best midfielder

Jorginho may have won UEFA’s Best Midfielder award in 2021 but he isn’t Chelsea’s most important man in that position. That honour still belongs to N’Golo Kante. Even when he’s playing at half his level, Kante is on another level to most midfielders and certainly in a bubble of his own at Chelsea.

The Frenchman’s reading of the game means he is capable of stopping many an opposition attack, while he will be remembered for a man-of-the-match performance in the 2021 Champions League final that included some other-worldly interceptions and tackles. He is also important to Chelsea on the attack, carrying the ball up the pitch and linking with the offensive players.

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Best attacker

Some may class Mason Mount as a midfielder but in Tuchel’s Chelsea he is very much an attacker, and the best one at the club right now. The Englishman, often playing just behind the striker, has been directly involved in more goals than any other Chelsea player across all competitions this season. With seven goals and seven assists, only Jorginho (nine) and Romelu Lukaku (eight) have scored more while no one has set up more.

It was Mount who played the defence-splitting ball for Kai Havertz in the Champions League final against Man City, setting up what turned out to be the winner. He’s also so important for his defensive contribution both in tracking back and being part of Chelsea’s high press, looking to turn the ball over in the opposition half.

Possible lineup

Kepa Arrizabalaga has been excellent in goal for Chelsea while Edouard Mendy has been at the Africa Cup of Nations, but the Senegalese shot-stopper is expected to be back for their trip to the UAE and will return in goal. Another potential return is Reece James, who has been out since late December with injury, which gives Tuchel a big decision to make.

Does he start James and revert to a back three or keep the back four he has been testing out in January? Chelsea have looked good with a back four but the return of James may see Tuchel go for the three, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva the centre-backs and Marcos Alonso left-wing-back. Then, Mateo Kovacic should partner Kante in midfield with Hakim Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku likely to start up front with Mount.

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