Chelsea are yet to win a game this season, but they will have taken plenty of positives from Wednesday’s 2-2 draw (and penalty shoot-out defeat) by Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. The Blues performed well in Istanbul, bouncing back from the disastrous 4-0 loss to Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Chelsea were the better team in the first half at Old Trafford last Sunday, but they could not handle United’s quick transitions after the break. That will not have escaped the attention of upcoming opponents Leicester City, who retain considerable counter-attacking prowess despite their evolution towards a more possession-based style of play under Brendan Rodgers.
Frank Lampard will have some selection decisions to make ahead of Sunday’s clash, with the most obvious choice coming at the top of the pitch. Tammy Abraham started brightly against United, striking the post early on and looking sharp with his movement, but he faded as the game wore on and was outmuscled by Harry Maguire in the build-up to one of the home team’s goals.
Olivier Giroud was given the nod in the Super Cup, with the Frenchman opening the scoring with a neat finish. The World Cup winner was excellent for most of the encounter, causing the Liverpool backline problems with his aerial prowess and hold-up play. Given the strength of his display, the 32-year-old would no doubt be disappointed to drop back down to the bench this weekend.
Giroud and Abraham each offer different qualities, and it could be that Lampard rotates depending on the opponent rather than naming one or the other as his first-choice No.9 come what may. Abraham is quicker and more mobile than his older colleague, which perhaps makes him better suited to clashes with the big six away from home. Indeed, had Chelsea taken one of their early chances and gone into the lead at Old Trafford last time out, Abraham’s speed on the counter-attack could have caused United considerable difficulty.
Giroud is now 32 years old but never had any pace to lose. Instead, the Frenchman is a marvellous back-to-goal centre-forward, adept at bringing the ball under his control and combining with attacking team-mates. His one-touch lay-offs to an onrushing forward have created countless chances during his time in English football with Chelsea and Arsenal, although he has never been an overly prolific scorer himself: his best Premier League goal return since moving to London was the 16 he netted for the Gunners in 2015/16.
Abraham, meanwhile, is largely untested at the highest level, and he probably would not be as heavily involved this term had Chelsea not been handed a two-window transfer ban for breaking FIFA regulations regarding the signing of under-18 foreign players. He did find the net 25 times for Aston Villa last season, though, helping the West Midlanders win promotion back to the Premier League through the play-offs.
Giroud is likely to start against Leicester on Sunday, but that does not mean he will always be Lampard’s pick upfront. Unless one of the two strikers is able to make himself undroppable, this season could see both Giroud and Abraham receive plenty of game time.