DRUMMY'S YOUNGSTERS READY TO SHINE
The Under 21s Premier League campaign gets underway this evening with the Blues welcoming Manchester City to Brentford FC's Griffin Park, a game which can be seen live on Chelsea TV.
In what is a new, restructured league, previously known as the reserves, we have been drawn in Group Three, alongside tonight's opponents, as well as Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Middlesbrough.
The league, made up of 17 teams from the top-flight as well as six from the Championship, sees the sides split into three groups, where they will compete in a league-style format, before a second group stage based on performance in the initial groups, a knockout round and final which will take place in the New Year.
Dermot Drummy's young side brought an end to their pre-season campaign this week with two successive 1-0 victories, against Kingstonian and Dundalk, rounding off what has been a solid six-week period which also saw the squad embark on an eight-day tour of Asia.
The manager named a strong side for the short trip to Kingstonian last Saturday, with Josh McEachran, Nathaniel Chalobah and Sam Hutchinson - who has since joined Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan - all involved, along with Thorgan Hazard, younger brother of Eden
It was an entertaining game with Adam Coombes going close, before Billy Clifford scored the only goal of the game seven minutes from time, crashing an absolute peach of a strike into the top corner to seal the victory.
The manager was pleased with the performance, particularly after the break, and pointed to a half-time tactical switch as an important factor.
'In the first half we didn't go forward enough,' he said. 'But in the second half we were more inventive with Amin [Affane] at left-back and Hazard coming on. It was a great strike by Billy for the goal.
'Our fitness levels have been really good. The idea behind having Josh, Hutch and Nathaniel in the side, who have all been involved with the first team, was to get them some game time, so it was really enjoyable.
Three days later, and our final warm-up game for the new season came in Ireland against Dundalk, in front of a capacity crowd at Oriel Park.
Again, Drummy named a strong side, with youngsters from last season's FA Youth Cup-winning team such as Lewis Baker, Nathan Ake and John Swift bolstered by the inclusion of more experienced players such as Clifford and George Saville.
The opening half was what you might call a typical pre-season encounter, with clear-cut opportunities proving elusive at both ends, but the game improved after the break.
Baker was the first to go close, stinging the palms of the Dundalk goalkeeper from the edge of the penalty area, while at the other end Ake made a wonderful block from Gary Shanahan.
We took the lead in the 83rd minute when Baker intelligently knocked a Todd Kane cross into the path of Patrick Bamford, who scored the winner from close-range, capping a decent night's work, and sending us into tonight's game full of confidence.
Chelsea v Manchester City takes place at Griffin Park, kick-off 7pm. Tickets are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for juniors, and are available from the stadium.
The game will also be broadcast live and exclusive on Chelsea TV from 7pm.