Chelsea season preview: Lampard returns to the Bridge but keeps targets 'realistic'
Frank Lampard watches on as Chelsea face Borussia Mönchengladbach | Photo by TF-IMages via Getty Images

Chelsea ended their pre-season in solid form after a 2-2 draw in Germany as they turn their attention to the Premier League on Sunday.

Frank Lampard's side face Manchester United in their opening game of the season and will be hoping to get off to a winning start. But how will The Blues fare under their former player's first stint at Stamford Bridge?

We take a look at the road ahead for Chelsea this year and where exactly their actions can see them finishing in the Premier League table by the end.

Transfer Business

Chelsea have famously had their two-window transfer ban enforced this season, but that doesn't mean there aren't any new faces or deals completed for the club.

Mateo Kovačić had his loan deal converted into a permanent stay at the Bridge, signing a contract that secures him for five years. The Croatian international had a fluctuating first season in the Premier League, but definitely displayed a lot of talent in the process.

Kovačić has been impressive under Lampard so far in pre-season, with his ability to dribble out of difficult situations a key factor in his squad involvement. The Croatian's quick change of pace and ability on the ball have been compared to that of the recently departed Eden Hazard.

Chelsea lost the services of one of their best ever players after the Belgian wizard finally secured a dream move to play under Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. The Blues will miss the attacking threat of Hazard after his 31 direct goal contributions in the 18/19 Premier League season. The London club will now need to rely on other players to step up in his place.

One such player could come in the form of January addition Christian Pulisic. The former 'wonderkid' finally joined up with the squad this summer after spending the rest of his season on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

The young American has been adapting to his new life on and off the pitch at Chelsea, showing good development under Lampard. Pulisic is steadily growing under the manager's philosophies and displaying a flair for finishing with a brilliant brace against Red Bull Salzburg.

Chelsea have also loaned out one of their brightest youth talents to a league that has brought successful results in the past: The Bundesliga. Ethan Ampadu has been sent out on loan to Red Bull Leipzig and is definitely one to watch as the season progresses.

The Blues have also seen a trio of departures sold to Championship side Bristol City. Kasey Palmer, Jay Dasilva and Tomáš Kalas have all left the London club after playing a large part in Chelsea's youth team victories and differing loan experiences.

Where the season will be won and lost

Chelsea's opening fixture is lining up to be one of the biggest. Lampard's first official game replicates that of Jose Mourinho's English managerial debut. The Blues face Manchester United in what should be a hotly contested fixture.

Not only this, but we will get to observe the blueprint that Lampard will be looking to lay his foundation on for the rest of the season as he names his first Premier League starting XI.

The toughest period for The Pensioners comes around the flood of fixtures at Christmas time. Chelsea face fierce London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, both away, in the space of seven days. This includes a home game between them against a potentially dangerous Southampton side.

Tottenham will be looking to add pressure to the title race once more with Arsenal following suit after adding some impressive players to their individual rosters. This means a tough ask for Lampard's squad, who may be struggling for squad depth at a congested period and no opportunity to increase their player options in January.

One to Watch

Mason Mount

After such an impressive time on loan under Lampard in the Championship, Mason Mount is definitely one to watch this season. The versatile midfielder has done more than enough to earn a starting spot in pre-season and the manager seems keen on giving him the opportunity.

Mount is second in the pre-season scoring charts, just one goal behind current leader, and most improved player, Ross Barkley. The 20-year-old has impressed fans with his work rate that comes hand-in-hand with Lampard's high pressing philosophies.

The aforementioned Barkley is the only potential obstacle between Mount and a first-team starting spot. The pair of players have similar playing styles and roles in the squad, often occupying the 'number ten' position.

The Blues boss has attempted to take advantage of the two in-form players, however, by employing both in advanced midfield roles in a 4-1-4-1 formation, whilst also trying a 4-4-2 diamond. This has been most effective when the two played together against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the second half, with Mount winning a penalty and Barkley converting it.

Potential Wildcard

Willian

Divisive Brazilian winger Willian has the potential to flourish under the new Chelsea manager. Chelsea's new number ten has come under fire by some fans in recent seasons. This comes down to questionable decision making under Maurizio Sarri's reign and was sometimes seen as the player, alongside Pedro, keeping fan-favourite Callum Hudson-Odoi out of the team.

The tricky attacker managed nine goal contributions in 36 Premier League appearances last season, which when compared to Hazard looks a frustrating amount. However, the Brazilian international has the potential to regain fan favour this season with his relentless work rate a big factor in Lampard's high-press.

Willian will also need to prove his worth to get into a side that has favoured Pulisic and Pedro for the majority of pre-season. The winger was away on international duty for an extended period and will now need to work even harder to gain a starting spot.

This means an impressive amount of energy, goals and assists may be required - giving Willian a platform on which to shine once more

What to Expect

For someone that has managed for just one season in the Championship, usually the expectations would not be so high. But Lampard acknowledged himself when first introduced to media the status of the club he once played for and now manages.

Chelsea are also now up against a series of impressive performers in the top six; clubs that have now strengthened from the transfer market, whilst The Blues are left to rely on their youth and large returning force from loan.

What the club has organised well is the pre-season. The level of competition has increased with each fixture as the squad comes to terms with the new philosophies and ideas that the manager is attempting to instil. Stand-out performers have emerged, plenty of goals are being scored and a starting XI is starting to shape.

The only worry has been the defensive organisation, with the backline conceding 11 goals and keeping just one clean sheet in all friendlies. This may be due to a constant swapping of personnel, and also the absence of key defensive powerhouses such as N'Golo Kanté and Antonio Rüdiger.

With the constant improvement of Liverpool and Manchester City it is highly unlikely that The Blues will reach those currently dizzying heights. Also, with the rotation of English and European football it will be a tough contest to fight out with Tottenham and Arsenal for that third-place spot.

Chelsea, with the belief of the squad in Lampard, can aim high still. If the already talented players put in the performances required from the managers highly adaptable system then fans can expect Champions League football again next season.

Predicted finish: 4th

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