THE irrepressible Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview Wednesday nights's UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Villarreal.
Chelsea vs Villarreal | Wednesday 11th August 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
The 46th renewal of the UEFA Super Cup sees Windsor Park, Belfast welcome Champions League winners Chelsea and Europa League victors Villarreal in only the seventh clash between clubs from England and Spain in this annual curtain-raiser to the new season in Europe’s ‘elite' leagues.
Spoils have been evenly shared in the previous six duals with Spanish sides coming out on top in the two most recent of such clashes when Real Madrid defeated Manchester United in 2017 – Chelsea themselves were the prior victims to that when losing to Atletico Madrid in 2012 all adding to a total of nine Super Cup wins from the last 12 for sides from Spain.
Chelsea come in to this one as clear favourites however, having seen an incredible transformation since Thomas Tuchel’s appointment in January following results and performances not meeting the Stamford Bridge club's expectations.
Frank Lampard, having spent £200m that summer, left with the club 9th in the EPL and seemingly without any clear path to sustained improvement – enter the former Mainz, Dortmund and PSG head coach and those same underachievers were turned in to UCL winners inside four months knocking out both Real and Atletico Madrid on route to shocking Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the final.
Building the foundations to their success from the back the Blues unbelievably only conceded two goals in Tuchel's first 14 fixtures in charge with one of those being an own goal from Antonio Rudiger, while both Kai Havertz and Timo Werner toiled in attack meaning Jorginho ended as their top league goalscorer with just seven goals.
After a season of bedding in we should expect more from both those big money signings, with Havertz in particular showing encouraging signs at the back end of last season, including the winning strike in the aforementioned UCL final in Portugal before following that up with two goals in the European Championship for Germany.
The 22-year-old forward will be confident he can help his team claim another trophy – even more so with the pending (re)addition of Romelu Lukaku waiting in the wings if as expected confirmation of his transfer comes too late for a main role in Belfast.
I’m taking Chelsea to continue the recent fantastic run for UCL holders – who have won seven of the last eight finals – and build on a promising pre-season record of three wins and a draw, even in that throwing away a 2-0 lead over Tottenham.
Only one club in the last 12 years has lifted the Super Cup as holders of the UEL, although that club – Atletico Madrid – has done so on three separate occasions and talking of three, Unai Emery will be hoping for it to be third time lucky following defeats in 2014 and 2015 with Sevilla – but I can’t see it.
In contrast to their opponents, the Yellow Submarine have had a tough build up to this game – failing to win any of their six pre-season matches, recently losing to Leicester and drawing to Leeds and although six of the last eight USC finals have gone to extra time including each of the last three, I don’t think either side will want an extra 30 minutes here so am happy to take a win for the English side in 90 minutes at odds of 4/5.
Last year's final seemed to be following a familiar recent trend, however the two first half strikes were not added to until extra time meaning Bayern and Sevilla contested the first renewal in six to see less than three goals, although that ensured all of those games saw both teams score.
With the odds a very appealing 11/10, I was keen to explore the possibility of extending that run of goals from both sides in this one.
In stark contrast to the aforementioned stats in the embryonic stages of Tuchel’s reign, the German has seen six of his side’s last seven fixtures feature both teams scoring, including all four friendlies, which could largely be due to Jorginho, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Mason Mount, Reece James and Ben Chilwell being given extended breaks after their summer exploits, none have played a single minute in pre-season and have only just returned to training.
Some or all may feature here in Belfast but even if they do there is a chance we will see a Chelsea that is a little more generous than the one we have become accustomed to seeing as they fine tune, getting minutes in legs ahead of their EPL opener with Crystal Palace on Saturday – and Villarreal have the tools necessary to exploit that.
Of the first team squad, only Gerard Moreno and Pau Torres were missing due to their European Championship commitments with Spain with the later also representing his country at the Olympics and although a COVID-19 scare means Etienne Capoue, Francis Coquelin, Geronimo Rulli and Vicente Iborra may miss out new signings Boulaye Dia and Aissa Mandi will be champing at the bit to start.
Dia scored an impressive 14 goals in 36 games for one of the worst attacking teams in France last season, as in total Reims only scored 42 times with an xG of 0.88 per Ligue 1 game, the 24-year-old will be understudy to Moreno – but may still get some game time here.
Moreno himself played a massive part in booking his side’s place in this fixture with seven goals and five assists in his 12 appearances in the UEL proving not only is he a clinical finisher, further endorsed by a haul of 23 La Liga goals, but that he can also supply the ammunition for his team mates too.
Even though it would be a huge blow to Emery’s side if Dani Parejo’s calf injury keeps the midfield star out of the game, I still feel Villarreal have enough to find the net and therefore that 11/10 with Sport Nation looks a very attractive price, and one I am prepared to take on.
Chelsea vs Villarreal – Chelsea to win (4/5 Sky Bet)
Chelsea vs Villarreal – Both Teams to Score (11/10 Sport Nation)