Tonight’s pre-season friendly against Inter Milan will provide Emerson Palmieri with the opportunity to reacquaint himself with a couple of familiar faces who are part of the Italian side’s ranks.
The Blues take on Inter in Nice, at the Allianz Riviera Stadium, in our second friendly of the pre-season campaign, with five of the more senior members of the group - Willy Caballero, Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Toni Rudiger and Victor Moses - part of the travelling squad after missing the recent trip to Australia due to their involvement in the World Cup.
Inter are now under the stewardship of Luciano Spalletti, who managed Emerson during his time in Serie A with Roma, and the Brazilian-born left-sided player is looking forward to greeting his former boss.
‘I worked with him for two years at Roma and I’ve only got good things to say about him,’ Emerson tells the official Chelsea website.
‘I’ll always have a special fondness for him but tonight we’re rivals. Obviously I will be very happy to see him and the game will be the first time I’ve played against one of his teams.’
Inter, who secured Champions League qualification at the end of last season, have been fairly active in the transfer market this summer, and their most high-profile addition is a player Emerson knows extremely well.
Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan moved to the San Siro from Roma, where he had been a team-mate of Emerson, and the Chelsea man spoke about the possibility of competing against his friend.
‘I played with Radja for three seasons and he’s a personal friend of mine,’ explains Emerson. ‘He’s a great guy, I don’t know if he is going to play tonight or not but I hope he’s there because it will be good to see him, and I want to play against him on the pitch.’
Emerson was involved in our first friendly, Monday’s 1-0 win over Perth Glory in Australia, and having joined the club midway through the 2017/18 campaign soon after recovering from a serious injury, he is aware of the significance of this pre-season on a personal level.
‘It’s very important for myself and the whole team, especially as we have a new manager,’ he says.
‘Last season I arrived in January, halfway through the season, and it takes a little bit longer to adapt when you come in at that point. But now I feel totally settled and I’m ready to give my all as quickly as possible ahead of the new season.’
It’s exactly two weeks since Maurizio Sarri took over at Stamford Bridge, but Emerson believes the players are quickly getting to grips with the demands placed upon them by the Italian.
‘He’s a very intelligent manager and I obviously played against him in Italy,’ he says. ‘It’s been a really positive start under him and the team have learnt a lot in a short space of time.
‘Now it’s our responsibility to keep working hard in training in order to understand his philosophy so that we can have a great season.’
Tonight’s game is followed by another against strong opposition in midweek when we face Arsenal in Dublin, and Emerson says it’s these type of tests which can benefit the team going into the new season.
‘It’s very important to play against strong opposition in pre-season because that way you get to assess what level the team is at in that precise moment,’ he explains.
‘It’s important for us to put in big performances against big teams and try to win the games regardless of the fact it’s pre-season.’
Tickets are now on general sale (maximum four per person) for our final pre-season friendly against Lyon at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday 7 August.