6 players who could become key men for Chelsea next season

Barring an intervention from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Chelsea will be unable to acquire any new players this summer after being hit with a two-window transfer ban for breaking FIFA rules on the signing of under-18s from abroad. That could give the following players an opportunity to stake their claim in the first team…

Andreas Christensen

A regular starter under Antonio Conte in 2017/18, Christensen slipped down the pecking order last term when Maurizio Sarri moved from a back three to a back four and restored David Luiz to the first-team fold. A knee injury to Antonio Rudiger gave him the chance to start the Europa League final, but the fact he played 15 times in continental competition and on just eight occasions in the Premier League shows that he was not a first choice under Sarri.

That could change in 2019/20, with Rudiger set to miss the start of the season and Luiz now 32 years of age. The Denmark international will certainly hope for more involvement than he managed last time out.

Tammy Abraham

Abraham has spent the last three seasons out on loan, first at Bristol City, then at Swansea City, and most recently at Aston Villa. His 25 goals helped the latter win promotion back to the Premier League last term, and he will now hope to compete with Olivier Giroud and, if his loan move is made permanent, Gonzalo Higuain for a starting role at Stamford Bridge.

“There will never be a better time to play the youngsters,” Abraham said this week. “Of course the transfer ban is probably not what the club wanted but for us it is exciting. I am excited and I am sure the rest of the players are.”

Mason Mount

Frank Lampard is the overwhelming favourite to be appointed as Sarri’s successor, and Mount is presumably hoping that Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer does indeed return to Stamford Bridge. The midfielder was a key part of Derby County’s promotion push under Lampard in 2018/19, making 35 league appearances and scoring eight goals.

Now 20 years old, Mount will hope to make a breakthrough at his parent club next season. Having now got two full seasons under his belt as a professional – first at Vitesse, then with the Rams – he will feel ready for the Premier League.

Ethan Ampadu

The extent of Chelsea’s loan operation is well known, but Ampadu has hitherto avoided being sent for a temporary spell away from west London. Signed from Exeter in 2017, the Welshman has instead been a fringe member of the first-team squad in each of the last two seasons.

The midfielder played seven times under Conte in 2017/18, before making a further five appearances for Sarri’s side last time out. Despite still being only 18, Ampadu will back himself to reach double figures in the upcoming campaign.

Reece James

Manchester United were linked with James earlier in the summer, but it would be a huge surprise if Chelsea let the talented youngster leave – particularly to join a big-six rival in the Premier League. The 19-year-old excelled on loan at Wigan in 2018/19, when he missed only one of their 46 Championship matches.

Cesar Azpilicueta will remain the Blues’ first-choice right-back next term, but the role of understudy is up for grabs with the futures of Victor Moses and Davide Zappacosta uncertain. James will hope he can fulfil that role at Stamford Bridge.

Kurt Zouma

It feels like a long time ago now, but Zouma was one of Chelsea’s rare bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 2015/16. However, he suffered a serious knee injury in February of that campaign and has yet to get his career at Stamford Bridge back on track.

The Frenchman has spent the last two seasons out on loan, first at Stoke and then at Everton in 2018/19. He is still only 24, though, and he could force his way back into the reckoning at Chelsea in the months to come.

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