Frank Lampard is still searching for his first win as Chelsea manager. Fans would have hoped that he would mark the occasion of his first Premier League clash as manager at Stamford Bridge with a victory, but Leicester City had other ideas. A second-half equaliser from Wilfred Ndidi put the champagne on ice, as it were, but the English top-flight grindstone continues its relentless turn towards another weekend of difficult questions and hard-to-find answers.
Norwich opened up their season with a heavy 4-1 loss to Liverpool that saw Daniel Farke‘s side branded as naive, before a comfortable 3-1 in over Newcastle witnessed the second, third and fourth goals of the season for promotion hero Teemu Pukki. It was a game to restore belief ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Carrow Road, while Lampard’s side look for the three points required to enjoy their own confidence boost.
The Blues are gradually settling into a first-choice eleven and various discussion points surrounding how Lampard would prioritise the players at his disposal are being cleared up as the days pass. In order to truly feel as though Chelsea are moving in the right direction, however, it is only natural to need a resounding victory to provide reassurance that they’re on the right track. Consistent team selection will be key – but balancing a limited array of strikers’ confidence looks of paramount importance.
Reece James is around three weeks away from a potential comeback after the injury he sustained during pre-season – Lampard has already name-dropped the 19-year-old as an important part of his squad moving forward. Antonio Rudiger, meanwhile, could be fit enough to return to the match day squad this weekend after featuring for Chelsea’s development side this week. The German defender should be considered a doubt.
Despite an indifferent start to the league season, owing to defensive injuries, Chelsea should retain the same back four. Emerson should be preferred to Marcos Alonso at left back at Carrow Road, with Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen getting a chance to continue their newfound partnership while Rudiger keeps moving on his path to recovery.
Probable starters: Azpilicueta, Christensen, Zouma, Emerson
Ruben Loftus-Cheek should reportedly be back in training within the next four to six weeks after the long-term injury which the English midfielder picked up at the tail end of last season. Chelsea should maintain the same hierarchy in terms of their midfield pecking order, as Lampard searches to get the right balance between his three.
Jorginho should feature at the base of midfield ahead of Mateo Kovacic, while Ross Barkley will likely miss out in favour of Mason Mount. The 20-year-old hit the back of the net in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Leicester last weekend and has shown his interest to keep hold of a first-team shirt after impressing his manager while the two worked together at Derby last campaign.
Probable starters: Kante, Jorginho, Mount
Callum Hudson-Odoi is not expected to be back fit until mid-September. The young winger will likely be given the chance to get up to speed in some development matches before integrating back into the first-team picture on a match day. Pedro will be deployed on the right-hand side as a result due to the current lack of natural competition. After goals for the development side, Michy Batshuayi could also soon knock on Lampard’s door.
Christian Pulisic should retain his place out on the left-hand side of the Chelsea attack, despite Willian being available. Although Olivier Giroud lead the line at Stamford Bridge against Leicester last time out, Lampard should prefer a slightly more mobile and dynamic striker against a Norwich side who have shown that they won’t surrender their attacking principles after promotion to the Premier League. Following his penalty heartbreak in the Super Cup, a good showing at Carrow Road could bring redemption.
Probable starters: Pedro, Abraham, Pulisic
Expected Chelsea line-up versus Norwich (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Zouma, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Mount; Pedro, Abraham, Pulisic