The acid test for where Chelsea could finish in the Premier League this season comes tomorrow as they take on Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
Only a win will do to kick-start the west Londoners’ season as they continue to languish at the wrong end of the table, in 11th place.
Defeat would not be a surprise, given their home form, and a draw will simply continue the debate as to the wisdom of breaking up an ageing but experienced side with £1billion worth of tantalising youth.
The international break will not have helped head coach Mauricio Pochettino cement the building blocks of relationships across the pitch.
Players have returned from all parts of the world in various stages of tiredness and as such, recovery time will have hampered preparations for the 5.30pm kick-off.
Acting skipper Conor Gallagher, pictured, played for England’s second string against Australia last Friday and was an unused sub against Italy at Wembley on Tuesday night.
So he, at least, will be raring to go.
Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo flew in from South America late on Wednesday and will be assessed at training today.
Chelsea Women saw off an improving West Ham 2-0 at Kingsmeadow on Sunday and have seven points from their three Super League games, putting them third.
They take on Brighton on Sunday, again at Kingsmeadow, with a 2pm kick-off.
Fran Kirby’s return to the first-team fold from injury and illness has seen her recalled to the England squad after an eight-month absence ahead of their Nations League double header against Belgium later this month.
Niamh Charles is also in the squad and revelling in the left-back or wing-back position – one that has been problematic for the Blues for a couple of seasons.
Of the West Ham match, Charles said: “It’s our first clean sheet this season and that’s what you build a winning run off, being hard to break down.
“We’ve been working on how the wingers can provide width so our more creative players in the middle can get on the ball and overload.
“I’m more than happy to do the running so the more creative players can get on the ball in dangerous areas. I really want to contribute defensively but also when I can in attack. Sam’s [Kerr] been on at me about putting a good ball in the box so it’s so nice when it comes off. If you give her one chance, she is going to bury it, that’s how good she is.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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