Antonio Conte experienced victory and defeat against a variety of strong opposition as the new Chelsea manager got to work with his squad for the first time.
The three-week pre-season programme started poorly when a side boasting Terry, Willian and Costa could not muster up a goal let alone victory as Conte’s Chelsea reign started with a 2-0 loss against Rapid Vienna.
They had time to correct any issues though with four days before their next pre-season outing at the Worthersee Stadion, with the Blues coming up with three goals to beat RZ Pellets, former pre-season opponents in 2014. Betrand Traore became the first man to score for Conte’s Chelsea, before Loftus-Cheek and Chalobah rounded things off in the final 10 minutes.
Next came the United States, where awaiting them first were English opponents in the form of arch-rival Liverpool. In front of the Rose Bowl, Gary Cahill scored what proved to be the eventual winner with his header from a Fabregas corner, and though the Spaniard would later be sent off for a reckless foul, his side secured the victory and bragging rights before their season’s encounters on domestic turf.
A quick turn-around time saw the Blues face Real Madrid less than 72 hours later in the Michigan Stadium. The 105,000-strong crowd at the world’s second largest stadium saw a five-goal thriller, but Chelsea were on the wrong side of the result, with Hazard’s brace in the final moments of the game mere consolation for the three first-half goals Real Madrid produced.
Conte’s men were back on track against another European heavyweight, though, with the Londoners defeating AC Milan 3-1. Bertrand Traore’s opener was cancelled out by Bonaventura, before a second-half Oscar brace sealed the deal. It was also the first time the world got to see N’Golo Kante in a Chelsea shirt, with the Frenchman coming on in the 52nd minute.
Werder Bremen concluded affairs for Chelsea’s pre-season, and where the German side won 3-0 in their pre-season outing two years ago, this time Chelsea did avenge that defeat. Antonio Conte so far stuck with a 4-2-4 formation throughout pre-season but opted to adopt a 4-1-4-1 formation going into this final pre-season game, and it paid off with Hazard, Oscar and Costa all scoring in the first 45 minutes, with Pedro rounding off a 4-2 victory in injury time.
Antonio Conte concluded pre-season by saying: “Pre-season was very tough and hard in all aspects and we must be pleased. It’s important to win for confidence ahead of the start of the season. We are working very hard to be ready. It will be difficult. We know we have some problems but we are trying to solve them. I am pleased with the attitude and behaviour of my players. It’s been good and now all of the players need a rest.”
Conte further elaborated on what he expects from his players: “I want to play with high intensity, to win the ball back very soon after we lose it, to attack with the right balance. I saw positive things and many situations that we can improve. We are working on this. Now there is one week of work before the season starts.”