AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Barcelona v Chelsea

The latest in a string of high profile pre-season friendlies before the season starts takes place when Barcelona meet Chelsea in another difficult fixture to weigh up.

It can be easy to take too much from pre-season performances, but it’s also fair to say that there will be more than a few eyes on this game given the sides involved. Frank Lampard has taken over at Chelsea in one of the most important managerial appointments of the season, and the ex-Chelsea midfielder has a big job on his hands.

Lampard, for all he had a strong first season, is taking another big step up into a squad that has lost its talisman in the shape of Eden Hazard, is saddled with a transfer ban, and also several notable injuries to start the season too.

Chelsea are still without ​Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, ​Willian and ​Antonio Rudiger due to long-term injuries and N’Golo Kante is still undergoing rehab for the knee injury that he suffered at the end of last season.

Barcelona’s flat ending to last season turned what could have been a potential treble into a very disappointing season by their high standards, and a lot of pressure is on Ernesto Valverde to fix things this season. The Catalans have wasted no time in attempting to improve their squad, and have made two of the biggest moves of the summer in bringing Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid and Frenkie De Jong from Ajax, adding massive firepower to their attack and midfield.

We could see those two make their debuts, but it will be a while before we see anything like Barcelona’s first team. Ernesto Valverde has given extended leave to the likes of ​Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and ​Luis Suarez after their exertions in the Copa America, so we should see a hybrid lineup that could have first-teamers such as Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets, alongside youth such as Jean-Clair Todibo, and Monchu.

Barcelona v Chelsea
Rakuten Cup Friendly
Saitama Stadium
Kick-Off: 11:30am
Chelsea TV / Rakuten Sports

That might give Chelsea a slight advantage – especially as they’ve already had a pre-season game – but they were unimpressive in a 1-0 defeat to Kawasaki Frontale in Friday’s first pre-season friendly when they had the best of the contest but didn’t manage to make anything of it.

Both sides appear to have plenty of reasons to take them on, so the draw might be the best call here.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Draw 5 pts at 13/5 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 173.37 points
(excluding Ryan Sidebottom Ashes bet, Tour De France, Blue Horseshoe Open Preview)