Huddersfield (UK): A frantic 48 hours in the transfer market provided Chelsea with a timely lift after last weekend’s Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.
The 0-2 loss left new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri to rue the difference between the two teams, with Pep Guardiola’s champions looking sharper and fitter than the Italian’s side.
Sarri has been in post for less than four weeks and the last thing he needed was to go into the first game of the new season Saturday at Huddersfield against the backdrop of a protracted stand-off between the club and keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois’s decision to stay away from the club this week could have had a negative impact at Stamford Bridge, reviving memories of the dispute with Diego Costa 12 months earlier.
But Chelsea moved quickly to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for 71.6mn pound, a world record for a keeper, on a seven-year contract, triggering Courtois’s exit to Real.
As part of the deal for the Belgian, Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic moved in the opposite direction on a season-long loan.
Now, Sarri must do all he can to prevent Eden Hazard following his international teammate to Madrid, although the current signs are the Belgium star has been convinced to stay.
This weekend, though, the main focus will be on Arrizabalaga if, as expected, the 23-year-old takes his first steps in English football. The speed with which Kepa settles in will be just one of the factors that determine how Chelsea progress under Sarri’s new regime.