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Saturday 24 August 2019

Dub debut for Lamp'

Frank may start his new job in friendlies against St Pat's and Bohs

Frank Lampard. Pic: Reuters
Frank Lampard. Pic: Reuters

A defeat in Dublin in a pre-season friendly last summer didn't do too much harm to Chelsea as things panned out, the London club going on to overcome turmoil to land a European trophy and secure Champions League qualification.

So Frank Lampard, the likely successor to Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge, will not worry too much about the outcome of the games when Chelsea play Bohemians and St Patrick's Athletic early next month.

The Dublin date last summer was the, ahem, International Champions Cup, when Arsenal beat Chelsea on penalties, after a 1-1 draw, in front of a full house at Lansdowne Road, though exactly why Arsenal, who haven't been champions of anything since 2004, were playing in the Champions Cup is one of those mysteries of modern life.

Pre-season in the summer of 2019 will be a case of back to basics for Lampard as his first test as Blues manager will be in Dalymount Park, once he is confirmed in the post that seems his for the taking.

Pre-season

Yep, the London club will take on Bohs at their northside home on Wednesday July 10, and then face Pat's on Saturday 13 July at Richmond Park. Chelsea will use those games to break out from their base in Carton House for the first part of their pre-season programme.

Chelsea, like other Premier League clubs, have come to Dublin to play League of Ireland sides but they usually only bring their second string or, even worse, their youth teams.

Wolves profited from their trip to Dublin 7 in 2010 as Matt Doherty played for Bohs against Mick McCarthy's side in that game, before he had played a league match for the Gypsies: within a week Doherty was off to Molineux and nine years on is their longest-serving player.

Bohs can cope with their Wednesday night fixture, which does clash with Dundalk's Champions League home tie with FK Riga, but Pat's have to squeeze their game in between the home and away legs of their Europa League battle with Norrkoping.

After the Ireland trip, Chelsea head to Japan where they play J1 League champions Kawasaki in Yokohama on 19 July and Barcelona on 23 July.

The club agreeing a fixture list for pre-season suggests a deal to hire Sarri's replacement has been all but done, and Lampard should be in situ long before he squares up to Keith Long.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are expected to complete the permanent signing of Mateo Kovacic for a fee in the region of £40million.

Transfer

The Blues are understood to have agreed the deal with Real Madrid, after Kovacic spent last season on loan at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are able to recruit the 25-year-old permanently despite their two-window FIFA transfer ban due to the terms of the original loan deal.

Kovacic arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer on a one-year loan with Chelsea retaining the option to buy at the end of that stint.

And with the Croatia midfielder still registered to the Blues, the west London club are able to push through his full transfer.

Kovacic's continued presence at Stamford Bridge will offset Ruben Loftus-Cheek's extended absence as the England midfielder continues to recover after Achilles surgery.

Kovacic's old club Inter Milan had expressed interest in taking him back to Serie A, but the 52-cap Croatia star wanted to stay at Chelsea.

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