There is no guarantee that the Blues will be playing European football next season. But despite a largely forgettable Premier League campaign, many of the squad will be heading to Russia for this summer’s World Cup finals.
It still beggars belief that this Chelsea squad could underperform so badly after its title-winning season the year before, but little should surprise the Stamford Bridge faithful these days.
Whether boss Antonio Conte is here to galvanise the troops in July remains to be seen. Nevertheless, we can only hope that those on international duty this summer can play themselves back into top form, ready to go again in 2018/19.
Let’s take a look at a trio of squad members who could benefit most from game time on the global stage in Russia.
Since his big-money move from the Mediterranean principality last summer, former Monaco man Tiemoue Bakayoko has struggled to impose himself on the Chelsea midfield to the extent many Blues fans will have hoped.
France boss Didier Deschamps has a lot of faith in the 23-year-old, recently labelling him a ‘complete footballer’. He picked up his first international cap last March and will certainly play a part on the French squad, which has landed itself in a relatively easy group with Australia, Denmark and Peru. Subsequently, their betting odds for Russia 2018 have shortened significantly to 11/2 to win the tournament outright.
There have been reports in the national press that Gary Cahill’s place in the England starting XI is under threat. The Blues skipper has certainly not been at his assured best in recent months and was justifiably dropped from the line-up for the recent Champions League clash with Barcelona.
Recent errors (including one against Bournemouth) have cost the Blues dearly of late. As such, it’s unknown whether or not England supremo Gareth Southgate will continue to have faith in the 32-year-old who captained the side against Germany earlier in the season. If Southgate does give him a vote of confidence, that could be the catalyst for Cahill to reignite his campaign in Russia.
Enigmatic Brazilian defender David Luiz has endured a frustrating second spell at Stamford Bridge. He’s fallen foul of boss Antonio Conte following an alleged training ground bust-up, and an injury has also curtailed his game time in recent months.
Andreas Christensen’s form has meant that the 30-year-old’s absence has not been felt anywhere near as much as it could have.
Luiz was left out of Brazil’s friendlies with Japan and England in the winter; but if he can prove his fitness between now and May, it’s likely he will be on the plane to Russia to provide an element of flair from the back of the park for the Canarinho.
There’s no doubt that Eden Hazard will be hoping to maintain his excellent recent form as the talisman for Belgium, while Alvaro Morata is also expected to lead the line for the Spaniards.
Willian has arguably been the most consistent performer for Chelsea this term, and his form should also see him feature heavily for Brazil, who have a relatively straight forward group to negotiate.
From a purely selfish point of view, by avoiding any long-term injuries, Blues fans could enjoy a successful summer as we regroup and get ready to go again next season—with or without Conte.