For the final match of our summer tour of the USA, Chelsea take on some familiar foes as the battle for bragging rights in the English capital moves to a new frontier in central Florida.
So we meet again
Arsenal have been regular pre-season opponents for the Blues in recent years with the match in Orlando marking our fourth such meeting since 2017.
Having not played a pre-season game against Arsenal for 35 years, we took our London rivalry all the way to Beijing in July 2017 for a clash at the Bird’s Nest Stadium. To the delight of our Chinese fans, Antonio Conte’s side turned on the style with Willian opening the scoring and Michy Batshuayi bagging two goals in a resounding 3-0 win.
We met again at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin a year later and the Blues appeared to be heading for another win thanks to an early header by Antonio Rudiger before an Alexandre Lacazette equaliser deep into second-half stoppage time salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Gunners.
Our match at the Emirates Stadium last August was part of The Mind Series and Chelsea again emerged victorious as goals by Kai Havertz and Tammy Abraham secured a 2-1 victory.
Up for the Cup
There will be some silverware at stake in Orlando with the winners of the match taking home the Florida Cup.
This is the eighth edition of the competition which began in 2015 and has featured clubs from Europe and South America including German Bundesliga outfits Cologne and Bayer Levekusen, Dutch giants Ajax and PSV Eindhoven and Brazilian sides Sao Paulo, Corinthians, Flamengo and Palmeiras.
Last year’s competition was won by Everton who outlasted Millonarios 10-9 in a marathon penalty shoot-out with former Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic converting the Toffees’ decisive spot-kick before saving the Colombian club’s final attempt.
Meet the new boys
After losing two of their final three games last season to finish in fifth place in the Premier League, Arsenal have been busy in the close season as Mikel Arteta tries to build a squad which can end their six-year absence from the Champions League.
The main change has been in attack with Gabriel Jesus arriving from Manchester City following Alexandre Lacazette’s return to Lyon on a free transfer. The early signs from the Brazilian have been promising as he netted twice on his Arsenal debut against Nuremburg before opening the scoring against Everton last weekend.
USA international Matt Turner was signed from New England Revolution to provide competition to Aaron Ramsdale for the No.1 spot and while the Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year conceded twice in the first half against Nuremburg, he kept clean sheets for 90 minutes against Everton and 45 against Orlando City.
Young Portuguese attacking midfielder Fabio Vieira has yet to play following his move from Porto after suffering a foot injury. Meanwhile, Ukraine full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, who watched from the stands in Orlando on Wednesday, was officially signed from Manchester City on Friday before joining his team-mates in training for the first time..
On song in pre-season
Arsenal have enjoyed some good results so far in pre-season with victories in all four of their games ahead of their meeting with the Blues at the Camping World Stadium.
A hat-trick by Eddie Nketiah fired them to a 5-1 win over Ipswich Town in a closed-door friendly at their training ground in London on 2 July before they travelled to Germany for a short training camp which included a 5-3 victory against Nuremburg which featured Jesus’ brace and a pair of own goals.
They then travelled on to the United States and beat Everton 2-0 in Baltimore last weekend with Jesus and Bukayo Saka getting on the scoresheet before goals by Gabriel Martinelli, Nketiah and Reiss Nelson fired them to a 3-1 win over Orlando City on Wednesday.
A juicy venue
Originally opened in 1936 and formerly known as the Tangerine Bowl and Citrus Bowl, the Camping World Stadium is a well-established gridiron football venue which has also staged some important matches of the round-ball variety during its long and rich history.
Its biggest claim to fame in the soccer world came in the summer of 1994 when it was selected as one of nine venues for the World Cup. It hosted five matches during the tournament including Netherlands’ 2-0 win over an Ireland side which featured former Chelsea players Andy Townsend and Tony Cascarino.
The stadium was also used for the men’s and women’s football tournaments in the 1996 Olympics and the Copa America Centenario in 2016 and was the home ground for Orlando City in their first two MLS seasons before they moved to the newly built Exploria Stadium in 2017.