Opinion: How could Enzo Maresca line-up with Chelsea for the first game of pre-season?

New boss, new look?

Chelsea will be gearing up for the upcoming season as we get into the pre-season fixtures in only a couple of weeks as the Blues start their prep for the 2024/25 campaign as the West Londoners gear up to face Wrexham.

The game will be one for history as Enzo Maresca takes charge of his first game as Chelsea manager following his arrival at Stamford Bridge from Leicester City. His arrival has set heavy expectations for the club to enter into a long project in West London as the club takes inspiration from Arsenal and Mikel Arteta to forge a new era of success under Maresca’s leadership, mirroring Arsenal’s strategy under Mikel Arteta.

Squad available for selection

The West Londoners will have varied dates of player arrivals as the ongoing summer of 2024 hosts international competitions, i.e., Euro 2024 and the Copa America. In terms of the former, Chelsea have Conor Gallagher and Cole Palmer representing the Three Lions in Germany and are favourites to appear in the finals with England. Marc Cucurella has been a phenomenon for Spain, who are again tagged as favourites to land in the finals on the other side of the bracket. 

For Copa America, Enzo Fernandez will be gunning up to appear in the finals with Argentina, while Moises Caicedo’s time at the competition is already over owing to being knocked out by Enzo’s Argentina in the last eight rounds of fixtures.

A number of Chelsea players have been overlooked by their nations for the ongoing summer fiesta, and this comes as a blessing in disguise as Maresca will have a fairly fresh squad at his disposal. Notable names, viz., Reece James and Ben Chilwell, missed out on travelling with Gareth Southgate’s squad because of their injury problems in the last campaign. French ace Christopher Nkunku did not board the flight to Germany as he wasn’t in the French squad, alongside Malo Gusto, who was unlucky to miss out on an opportunity to travel to the Championships. 

It’s expected that Enzo will opt to continue with his 4-3-3 line-up in the opening games of pre-season, something that he did at Leicester City. However, he may choose to experiment with a 4-2-31 as the roster at his disposal is still young and developing into his style of play.

Our Chelsea starting line-up vs. Wrexham

Goalkeeper: Đorđe Petrović

The 24-year-old Serbian put in some impressive performances with the gloves last season, and Enzo Maresca will want to take an early look at his attributes this pre-season. Enzo likes a ball-playing goalie, and while Petrovic can provide solid goalkeeping reflexes, Maresca will be keen to assess his distribution and ability to initiate attacks from the first line during this pre-season period.

Chelsea also have Robert Sanchez, who is great with the ball at his feet, but the Serbian is a better all-round keeper than the former Brighton man. 

Right-back: Reece James

Reece James has been suffering constant injury problems for some time now, and the Chelsea captain would be looking to get back to his full fitness going into the next campaign. He will be keen to build fitness for the start of the upcoming season, and he will likely start doing so early with a run-in against Wrexham.

This game will allow him to understand where he stands based on injuries and how his body reacts in a competitive environment. Fans would be excited to peek at him, as, when fit, he is one of the best right backs in the English top tier.

Centre-back: Alfie Gilchrist

The Cobham Academy graduate has been impressive since the conclusion of the last season, and he would be keen to impress the new boss this summer. Giving him an opportunity early in the preseason will help the Chelsea gaffer understand where the player stands and the sort of improvements he would need to make to fit into his style of play.

He signed a new long-term deal at the Bridge following his performances last summer. 

There is also a fair opportunity that Chelsea would loan him for regular playing time under his belt, although Enzo would like to look at him before making such a decision.

Centre-back: Tosin Adarabioyo

Chelsea’s new signing Tosin could get his first opportunity to impress in the prestigious Blues when they line up against Wrexham. 

He has shown excessive defensive capabilities with Fulham over the past years, and the Blues faithful would be hoping to witness something similar in his game at the Bridge this season.

Left-back: Ben Chilwell

Another player who has high capabilities, like Reece James, has suffered from constant injuries over the past season. He would be looking to come back into the squad and start impressing early in the pre-season, especially considering the form that his competitor in the left-back role, Marc Cucurella, is showing at the ongoing European Championship.

Ben can not only contribute defensively but also has various weapons in his arsenal. He can play in an inverted role because of his exceptional passing abilities, as well as in an overlap role.

Chilwell has also been linked with a move away from Chelsea, with Manchester United interested in his signature.

Defensive Midfielder: Romeo Lavia

We have barely seen that Manchester City academy graduate in Chelsea colours since his arrival at the club last summer. He is another of the long list of players on the West Londoners roster whose last campaign got underwhelming owing to injuries. Lavia would be scratching his arms for an opportunity to impress everyone going into the new season, and building fitness with games like the ones against Wrexham would be important for the 20-year-old ace.

He has only played 32 minutes since his move to Chelsea; however, it is easy to forget that he is still young and has exceptional capabilities. The Chelsea head coach will be looking to use Lavia’s technical understanding and potential in the upcoming season. We should get glimpses of those against Wrexham and in the past.

Central Midfielder: Andrey Santos

Enzo Maresca has plenty of exciting young options to throw into the midfield against Wrexham, and 20-year-old South American midfielder Andrey Santos will be looking to impress the Chelsea boss as he returns to Stamford Bridge this summer. The Rio de Janeiro-born midfielder has played for about eighteen months on loan since his move to the West Londoners in January 2023. 

Many Chelsea supporters would not be following him closely during that time, but he surely has the potential to make an impact this preseason and earn a spot in Maresca’s plans for the upcoming season.

Central Midfielder: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall has been playing some exceptional football off late under Enzo Maresca at Leicester City, and the Blues boss has brought the midfielder with him to Stamford Bridge. He has an excellent skill set while already knowing the tactical side of things that Enzo demands in the game, which would help the boss put through his style of play on the pitch with ease. 

Wrexham would be the first opportunity for Chelsea fans to get a look at Dewsbury Hall. 

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Left-wing: Mykhailo Mudryk

Mudryk has the pace and power to become one of the best wingers in the English top tier; however, he has not found his feet in English football and has struggled to adapt to the fast-playing and physical side of things that Premier Legaue is all about. He would be looking to come into the new season hungry to prove his price tag and showcase his true potential to the English fans, leveraging his skills to establish himself as one of the league’s top wingers.

We have seen glimpses of his likeliness of playing feather-touch running football, and he may finally get the opportunity to do so consistently this season under the new boss at Cobham Training Centre.

Centre-Forward: Christopher Nkunku

Another player has suffered injury problems in his first season in West London. His high technical understanding, complemented by his ability to drift across the final third, would prove crucial playing under Enzo. Chelsea supporters would be excited for his rejuvenation at the Bridge this summer.

The Blues are also in the market for signing a marquee striker this summer; however, if Nkunku gets back to his usual self, Chelsea have their marquee number nine option already in their squad.

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Right-wing: Raheem Sterling

Sterling has already played for a highly technical side under Pep Guardiola, and he is set to become one of the most important players in the managerial transition that is taking place at Chelsea. He is expected to start on the right wing in a few weeks when Chelsea take on Wrexham in the first game of the pre-season friendlies.