Football Features

Loftus-Cheek’s season in doubt? Nine things you may have missed from Chelsea vs New England Revolution

By Harry Edwards

Published: 3:08, 16 May 2019

Chelsea beat New England Revolution 3-0 in a post-season friendly aimed at raising money for charity.

Ross Barkley opened the scoring after just three minutes, reacting quickest to a poor clearance, curling a shot into the bottom right corner.

Olivier Giroud doubled the lead on the half-hour mark with a diving header from Davide Zappacosta’s cross, though replays showed a hint of offside.

And Barkley wrapped up the scoring midway through the second half, deflecting Gonzalo Higuain’s shot into the net.

With the game taking place at night-time in Boston, most of Europe would have been asleep while the two sides faced off, oblivious to the action.

So, what might you have missed?

1. A game for a worthy cause

Some may look at post-season friendlies as nothing more than teams trying to milk as much money as they can from their international fans. But Chelsea’s trip to Boston was anything but that.

Dubbed the ‘Final Whistle on Hate’ charity match, Chelsea and New England Revolution joined up as part of the Blues’ ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ campaign, something the Premier League club have put a lot of time into.

All proceeds from the match will be shared across 15 charity organisations set up to fight antisemitism and discrimination with both Roman Abramovich and Revs owner Robert Kraft also donating $1m.

2. Chelsea’s strong starting line-up

Following Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Leicester City on Sunday to end the Premier League season, attention should have been turning to the Europa League final.

But instead, the Blues had to jump on a plane to Boston for this special post-season friendly. And while Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri admired the reasoning, he was not too sure about the added fixture.

“It’s a double feeling,” he told reporters.

“I’m happy because we go there for a good reason. As a coach I am worried because we are tired and need to rest.”

And yet the Italian named a very strong starting XI for the match at the Gillette Stadium, one which wouldn’t look out of place in the latter stages of the Europa League.

Of the starting players, only Zappacosta could be counted as a guaranteed non-starter for the Europa League final at the end of the break. The likes of Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley, Mateo Kovacic and Pedro find themselves fighting for a place, but the remaining six are all-but certain to start in Baku.

Understandably, Sarri might have wanted to give the visiting fans the best possibly players, but it could have been done risk-free with appearances scattered throughout the match.

3. Roman Abramovich takes in his first Chelsea game of the season

Visa issues have seen Roman Abramovic stay away from Stamford Bridge this season and there were some reports of the Chelsea owner losing interest in the club.

But with no travel restrictions stopping him, Abramovich was seen at the Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night, given his closeness to the charities involved – his first live Chelsea game of the season.

4. Carles Gil pops up

Do you ever have those moments where you wonder whatever happened to certain ex-Premier League footballers? Well, for those wondering about Carles Gil, we’ve got the answer.

The Spaniard was once regarded as a young player with lots of promise upon arriving at Aston Villa in January 2015, but Gil struggled to make much of an impact in England.

After being relegated with the Villans, Gil spent time with Deportivo de La Coruna in his native Spain before joining New England Revolution in January 2019.

Gil was Revs’ best attacking outlet in the first half, trying to get at Chelsea’s defence through the middle of the pitch before being taken off at the break.

New England Revolution do also have former Chelsea youth product Michael Mancienne on their books but the 31-year-old missed out on a reunion through injury.

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5. Chelsea bring out the tricks

Understandably, even with their domination, the Chelsea players did not look to exert too much energy for the pre-season friendly – with their Europa League final two weeks away. But that did not stop some of the Blues stars from putting on a show for their American fans.

First it was Eden Hazard who constantly toyed with the Revs defence, giving Brandon Bye a particularly tough time at right-back.

But this was something Ross Barkley took as a challenge, going on a short seal dribble having won an aerial battle in the middle of the pitch.

6. New England Revolution’s substitution pattern

It’s not unusual to see substitutions galore in a friendly, especially when both teams have bigger games on the horizon. These usually come at half-time and on the hour mark, ensuring players have enough minutes to keep fit but not too many as to risk injury.

But, midway through the MLS season, New England Revolution opted for a more bizarre substitution strategy. Their first batch came shortly after Olivier Giroud doubled Chelsea’s lead on 30 minutes with three changes coming across the pitch including in goal. Then, 10 minutes later, another three substitutions came on in a move which really affected the tempo of the game.

More substitutions arrived at half-time before New England Revolution utilised the full extent of their bench as a third goalkeeper came on in the second half.

7. Another injury blow for Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Ruben Loftus-Cheek just cannot catch a break.

The Englishman’s Chelsea career finally looked to be on track, with Loftus-Cheek proving to Sarri that he is the best midfield option ahead of Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic after overcoming injury problems.

As such, the 23-year-old started the post-season friendly on the bench, potentially to keep him fresh for the certain Europa League final start.

He did come on at half-time alongside five other Chelsea changes, but lasted just 25 minutes before injury struck again. This time it appeared to be his ankle, after a coming together in the middle of the pitch.

The Englishman went down in pain and had to be helped off the pitch, wincing as he made his way around the outside and back to the dressing room.

A Europa League final place for Loftus-Cheek now looks seriously in doubt.

8. Youth get a chance

It’s something Sarri has received a lot of criticism over the season for, but in Boston, Chelsea fans finally got to see some of their younger players given a run out at the end of the season.

Five youngsters were named on the bench for the game against New England Revolution with Marc Guehi, Trevoh Chalobah, Conor Gallagher and Ike Ugbo joining the impressive Reece James.

Chelsea Academy Player of the Year Gallagher was the first to come on with 20 minutes remaining, replacing the injured Loftus-Cheek. Then came the moment many Chelsea fans were waiting for as James made his way onto the pitch in place of Davide Zappacosta, with Trevoh Chalobah – sporting the No.14 previously worn by his brother, Nathaniel, and currently belonging to on-loan midfield Tiemoue Bakayoko – also replacing Ross Barkley.

9. Rob Green gets his Chelsea send-off

In a moment met with cheers similar to that celebrating a goal, Rob Green was handed a rare Chelsea appearance.

Last seen in a pre-season friendly against Lyon at Stamford Bridge, the former England goalkeeper was a late substitute, keeping a clean sheet in Chelsea’s 3-0 win.

But while most of the cheers may have been for Green coming on for Chelsea, there is a chance some were remembering his game against the United States in the 2010 World Cup.