The last time Chelsea won the Super Cup was in a contest between the previous year’s Champions League winner and the Cup Winners’ Cup winner.
The Blues were in the penultimate final of the latter and defeated Real Madrid in that game. Since then, the Super Cup has served as a prelude to the championship match between the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League.
After adjusting to the newer format, the Blues have not had much success. Atletico Madrid completely destroyed Chelsea in 2012, when Radamel Falcao was still a world-class player.
Following that, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea forced Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola to take penalties, which Romelu Lukaku failed to convert on his second attempt (more on that later). Chelsea also pushed Liverpool to the brink of defeat in 2019, with Tammy Abraham failing to convert in the same fashion that Lukaku did in the previous season (more on that in five years, probably).
Despite the fact that this may appear to be a minor piece of silverware in the larger scheme of things, the fact remains that it was a competitive match and one that Chelsea would like to add to their trophy cabinet. Villareal may not be the most difficult of opponents, but Manchester United believed they would be overwhelming favorites in their match against the Yellow Submarine. The Blues can’t afford to take anything for granted this season. Was there anything specific they should be looking for in the match?
1. How far will Chelsea be able to push herself at “full strength”?
Chelsea has had all of its players back in training for almost a week and a half. Thomas Tuchel has done an excellent job of integrating returning players as replacements before bringing them into the starting lineup. He has, on the other hand, been forced to pitch multiple makeshift XIs in order to cover for players who are either absent or unfit.
While that may be fine when the game is just friendly and the only thing that matters is being (and staying) fit, when the game involves anything more than that, things become more complicated. The Super Cup, on the other hand, is a very competitive match. The Community Shield does not claim to be a competitive match in the same way the World Cup does. With the exception of the Community Shield, the Super Cup, like most other Super Cups, follows the same replacement policies and methods as the Champions League. No one will likely remember who won by the time next year comes around, but there is no way to make it any more official.
As a result, Tuchel is faced with some difficult decisions. Because this is a competitive match, he will want to field his strongest possible team. But how prepared are Mason Mount and Jorginho in this regard? How prepared are their colleagues who haven’t played much? And, if they aren’t ready, who will step in to fill the void? Despite the fact that Tuchel will want to have a solid XI in order to win his second championship with the club, he will not want to take too many risks with crucial players in the long run. Villareal demonstrated that they are no pushovers when they defeated Manchester United in the Champions League last season, so the Blues must be cautious and find the perfect balance.
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2. Is it time to write some poetry or use a marker?
It was already stated that Lukaku missed his penalty attempt in 2013. Chelsea would go on to lose the Super Cup to Bayern Munich as a result of Lukaku’s miss, which would be his final kick for the club. He was then loaned out to Everton for a short while. Lukaku was transferred to Everton a year later, following the signing of Diego Costa.
No one needs to convince Lukaku that he is a wonderful player, and he does not need to. The evidence is indisputable. Chelsea, on the other hand, always seemed to have a sense of unfinished business. Lukaku could have finished the business years ago if it hadn’t been for Mino Raiola’s intervention. Instead, he went the long route around, which may have allowed him to return at the correct moment.
It would be immensely poetic if Lukaku’s first match back at Chelsea took place in the Super Cup on the same day. It would be even better if he was the one who scored the game-winning goal. Again, it’s a minor honor in the larger scheme of things. However, it would be monumental for Lukaku and the club if he could begin his new adventure by making up for the mistakes of the previous one.
That is, of course, assuming he joins up for the game in time. Everything will need to be completed as quickly as possible in order to register him in time. If he is unable to sign up within a reasonable amount of time, whoever fills in for him will have one final opportunity to make an impression.
And, of course, it becomes hazy as to who will take his place on the field. Tuchel considers most of his front three to be totally replaceable, which means that any of the three might find themselves in a predicament following Lukaku’s arrival. With the late Euros returners possibly not being ready to start just yet, the front three could be in a tremendous scrap for the first few minutes. It will be critical for everyone to get off to a fast start, and the Super Cup may provide them with an opportunity if Lukaku does not sign before the deadline.
3. With all eyes on the new season, football is now back in full swing because Chelsea will only have two days between games once more. After playing in the Super Cup in Belfast, the Blues will fly back to London for their Premier League debut against Crystal Palace the following week. One match will decide a championship, but the other will be crucial in terms of getting the season off to a good start (especially with the rough run the club has to start with).
Consequently, much as Tuchel must balance who is fit and who is not, he will also have to deal with a quick turnaround between the two matches, which will be a challenge. Thanks to the club’s vast roster depth, it will be able to compete against Villareal and Palace despite rotating heavily. However, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Tuchel make a number of changes in the near future. Due in part to his ability and in part to his desire to keep everyone’s energy levels at their highest levels for the longest period of time.
The previous season was extremely long. Not only did the Blues play a large number of matches, but the season got underway shortly after the previous season concluded, which was unusual. In addition, several of the key players went straight from the Champions League victory to international competitions after winning the competition. For certain players, fatigue, both mental and physical, may unavoidably persist.
The upcoming season is likely to be equally as long, if not longer, than the last one. Besides the Super Cup encounter, Chelsea has the Club World Cup on the horizon as well as (hopefully) numerous deep cup runs in the tank before the season is over. Furthermore, because the World Cup would divide the 2022/2023 season in half, many international matches will be forced to be played earlier in order to accommodate the World Cup. It wouldn’t be shocking (though it would be terribly stupid) to see international breaks consisting of three matches on a regular basis during the entire season. Some players, like Mount, may have engines that allow them to run at breakneck speeds, but it does not imply that they should.
Tuchel has the ability to get the Blues off to a strong start despite rotating heavily between the two games. Because the rotation is constant, this should be a season in which a “best XI” is a rarity rather than the norm. The roster is now deep enough that almost everyone should expect to see at least 25 starts over the season. With the Super Cup and the rapid turnaround to Palace, the process gets underway.