Preview: Chelsea

From the familiarity of a visit from West Ham’s development group to something of an unknown quantity in Chelsea’s equivalent squad of players, the Fleet go into the final pre-season friendly match with an impressive set of results behind them in July.

Six wins and 19 goals tells a tale of a carefully planned and executed summer programme with Colchester United the only one of seven opponents to take anything from Dennis Kutrieb’s blossoming squad.

The odd knock and injury along the way is par for the course, and something to be expected across a league season as well, as the Fleet manager has said, but heading into the final 90 minutes of the summer, preparation for the Rochdale opener is well on track.

The visit of Chelsea gives Kutrieb one last opportunity to cast his eye over the players that could make up his squad for Saturday’s TNT Sports game – and perhaps one last relaxed atmosphere for Fleet fans as they prepare for the 46-game campaign to come.

And for two members of the home squad, there’s something of a reunion with Fleet’s on-loan defender Jack Wakely having spent much of his youth at Stamford Bridge while Billy Clifford might have to go back a little further but he, too, is a product of a long schooling at Chelsea.

Jack Wakely progressed through the visitors’ youth ranks from 2009 until 2021

Chelsea’s U21s, managed by former AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Robinson, are a year or two younger on average than their West Ham counterparts but don’t let that fool anyone – the vast majority of the expected Blues squad finished third in Premier League 2 last season, just behind Liverpool and Manchester City. As a rule, the club’s development side generally finishes in the top places of the division year on year. They’d had a poor 2021/22, however, and Robinson transformed them from relegation candidates to title challengers.

There are youth internationals galore on show from a big pool of talented youngsters and after three friendlies already against National League opposition, they’ll know what they’re coming up against.

Chelsea drew 3-3 at Boreham Wood to kick their pre-season off, then followed up with 5-3 and 3-1 defeats at Barnet and Aldershot Town so there are certainly plenty of potential goals to keep supporters entertained.

Up and coming players in the side include Zak Sturge and Dylan Williams in defence, the latter having already played in the Championship for Derby County. Up front, Alex Matos has arrived from Norwich City and Jimmy-Jay Morgan has a history of goals having returned to Stamford Bridge from Southampton. Look out, too, for versatile England U17 defender Ishé Samuels-Smith (below) who arrived at Chelsea off the back of a deal worth a reported £4m from Everton earlier this month.

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As with Conor Coventry’s appearance for West Ham in midweek, the Blues could spring a surprise if any first-teamers currently not on tour with the senior squad need minutes, with England international Callum Hudson-Odoi appearing and scoring at Boreham Wood a few weeks ago.

Tickets can be bought online here until noon on Saturday and thereafter at our ticket windows up to kick-off. Car-parking is available for the special matchday price of £3 at Ebbsfleet International Car Park C. Keep an eye out also for our FREE online programme later on today.

Supporters are reminded as we head into the National League campaign ahead that alcohol will not be permitted to be consumed within view of the pitch and that matches will be segregated as required at the Swanscombe End (or a section of it). Please do co-operate with the instruction of our security team and stewards.


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First-Team Squad