Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta believes the pre-season International Cup of Champions tournament in Singapore will be a good opportunity for the club to assess where they stand.
The Premier League champions will face Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Italian giants Inter Milan in the three-club tournament in Singapore from 25 to 29 July.
According to the Spaniard, manager Antonio Conte is expecting the club to defend their title this season.
The Blues however, have hardly strengthened their squad, making just two signings so far – goalkeeper Willy Caballero from Manchester City on a free transfer, and centre-back Antonio Rudiger from AS Roma for 34 million pounds.
In contrast, their title rivals have splashed out the cash, with Manchester United signing Belgian Romelu Lukaku from under their noses.
Azpilicueta admitted that it would be a “big challenge” for them to retain the Premier League title, but pointed out that pre-season will be key for them to show the fans what they will be capable of.
“Pre-season is for us to prepare well for the season, to train well, to play tough opponents and that’s what we are doing,” the 27-year-old said in a phone interview with Singapore media on Wednesday (12 July).
“Even a friendly, we want to win. We will be training hard to get into condition for the first official game.
“We will use pre-season to assess our quality… we are ready to fight and to do well again,” he said.
At the same time, he cautioned against expectations that fans might have of them in the tournament.
“We’ll be happy only if we win, but we have to know that it’s more than that,” Azpilicueta said.
“We will try to play at our best as we try to get into shape for the season.”
Future at Chelsea unclear
However, whether Azpilicueta remains at Stamford Bridge when the season begins remains unclear.
He has been linked with a move to Barcelona in recent weeks, as the La Liga giants continue their search for a full-back.
When asked if he will be staying on for his sixth season at the club, a Chelsea official interrupted and requested that no questions on transfers be asked.
However, Azpilicueta later offered, “The players in transfer windows, we know that first of all, before the transfer window closes anyone can change teams so it’s natural, we’ve been living with that for years and we take this naturally.”
All ticket holders to any of the three matches of ICC SG are eligible for a Grand Draw that will see the lucky winner walk away with a pair of return airfare tickets to either London, Munich or Milan. Other than the airfare, the winner will also receive three nights accommodation and a pair of passes to watch their favourite Club in action on their home ground in the upcoming 2017-18 season. All ticket holders simply need to enter a contest by naming their favourite team and the names of the players from their team featured in the main event poster. Ticket holders can email their answers and their Sports Hub Tix account number to email@example.com. The contest closes on 18 July at 2359hrs.