THE Bird’s Nest played host to several iconic sporting moments during the 2008 Olympic Games and next week two of the Premier League’s most successful sides will step out at the stadium.
Champions Chelsea take on FA Cup winners Arsenal in Beijing on July 22 in a showcase match for the English top flight.
The game should provide an interesting insight into how both clubs’ preparations for the 2017/18 campaign are coming along. And our friends at Football Whispers have predicted how both sides will line-up.
Arsenal’s first-choice stopper should start against Chelsea, for whom Cech is considered a legend. The Czech may be the Gunners’ only senior goalkeeper come July 22, with David Ospina linked with a move away.
The young defender was brought into the Arsenal side after Arsene Wenger’s switch to a back three and produced several composed performances. With Gabriel recovering from injury and Shkodran Mustafi away after competing in the Confederations Cup, Holding should start against Chelsea.
The French centre-back is undoubtedly Arsenal’s best defender and should start in the centre of the Gunners’ back three against Chelsea. He was linked with a move away earlier this summer but Arsenal, understandably, didn’t entertain any offers.
A natural full-back, the Spaniard should move inside against Chelsea given Wenger’s lack of options at centre-back. It’s a position Monreal filled to good effect last season and one that he may see more action in next term following the arrival of Sead Kolasinac.
The future of the England international remains uncertain but he impressed in the unfamiliar wing-back role last season. If Wenger continues to deploy a back three, Oxlade-Chamberlain can make the position his own with Hector Bellerin given an extended break after featuring in the Under-21 European Championships for Spain.
The Swiss enforcer took a while to settle into English football but he improved as the 2016/17 campaign came to an end. Xhaka is expected to be a key member of Arsenal’s midfield this season and should start in Beijing.
The Welshman was in and out of the Gunners’ starting XI last season but put in an impressive display in the FA Cup final, which included scoring the winning goal. If he starts against Chelsea and impresses, then Ramsey will have taken a big step towards starting on the opening day.
Signed on a free transfer from Schlake this summer, Kolasinac will use pre-season as a chance to cement his spot as the Gunners’ first-choice left wing-back. A good performance against Chelsea could go a long way to achieving that.
After being given the summer off by Germany, Arsenal fans will hope Ozil can have an impressive 2017/18 campaign. The former Real Madrid star is expected to start against Chelsea and it will be intriguing to see how he links with Alexandre Lacazette.
With Alexis Sanchez given additional time off after his involvement with Chile at the Confederations Cup, England international Walcott can once again stake a claim for a place in the starting XI against Chelsea.
Arsenal’s record signing should start against the Blues. It would be the first time Lacazette comes up against Premier League opposition following his switch from Lyon, a strong performance could be an indicator to how he’ll perform in the top flight.
Willy Caballero arrived at the start of the month but will only be back-up to Courtois who is, despite admiring glances from Real Madrid, Chelsea’s undisputed No.1 goalkeeper. The Belgian should start against the Gunners but may only get 45 minutes.
The Spaniard is one of the finest defenders in world football and slotted in seamlessly at centre-back last season. He is one of Antonino Conte’s most trusted players and if he’s fit he starts.
The centre-back was one of the stand-out players of Chelsea’s title-winning campaign. Under Conte’s guidance, Luiz has finally grown into the fine defender many believed he could be. He is also a leader, hence why he’s in the running to replace John Terry as club captain.
With new signing Antonio Rudiger given additional time off having been part of the Germany side who won the Confederations Cup, Cahill is expected to once again line-up on the left-hand side of the Blues back three.
Right wing-back was a position Chelsea were expected to strengthen this summer and they’re reportedly in talks with Real Madrid over Danilo. However, a deal isn’t close to being struck which means Moses should start in the role he made his own last term.
It may only be a pre-season friendly but France international Kante would still be the first name on Conte’s team-sheet. The reigning PFA Player of the Year is one of the fittest footballers around and could complete more than 45 minutes in Beijing.
With Nemanja Matic’s Chelsea future still uncertain – he is a £40m Manchester United transfer target – Fabregas is likely to partner Kante in the centre of the Blues’ midfield against the club he captained.
Chelsea were hoping to complete a move for Juventus left-back Alex Sandro but the Brazilian reportedly has cold feet over making a switch to London. That should mean Alonso, who impressed last season, will begin at left wing-back.
The Brazilian was in and out of the side last term due to the form of Pedro and Eden Hazard but he is likely to start against the Gunners – something he didn’t do in the FA Cup final – and could stake an early claim for a regular berth.
With Eden Hazard ruled out until September after breaking his ankle while on international duty with Belgium, Spaniard Pedro is likely to start on the left side of the Chelsea attack in Beijing.
With the Blues unable to land a striker and Diego Costa given an extended break to complete a move to back to Atletico Madrid, Batshuayi is the only senior frontman currently at the club and should lead the line against the Gunners.