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Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will provide a stern test for Barcelona

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The champions mustn’t take the Londoners for granted

FC Barcelona Pre-Season Training Session Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

And so it begins again!

A week after pre-season started in earnest, Barca have travelled to Japan for the delights of the Rakuten Cup, with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side their first test of the 19/20 campaign.

Without many of their most experienced exponents, Ernesto Valverde will at least be able to run the rule over some fringe and Barca B players, and with that in mind, the west Londoners are likely to provide a stern test.

Lampard’s appointment has raised a few eyebrows, but there are parallels with Pep Guardiola being handed the reins at the Camp Nou back in 2008.

Both were revered by club and fan base, both understand what it means to play for the club at the highest level, and both have a very definite way of playing.

Not to mention the presence of youth in both teams, and a determination to win every game, friendly or otherwise. It’s here where Barca need to be careful.

The likes of Mason Mount, Cristian Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic will be given licence by their new man in charge to get at the Blaugranes from the earliest opportunity.

Depending on your viewpoint, pre-season is purely an exercise in attaining certain fitness levels and seeing how well the new signings gel together with their team-mates, or it’s the perfect opportunity for other players to stake their claims and giving the technical staff something to think about.

Jean-Clair Todibo would be a prime example, given that he’s been thrust into the limelight thanks to Matthijs De Ligt’s incredibly short-sighted decision to sign for Juventus.

If competition for places is what coaches truly desire too, then Valverde will be expecting the young Frenchman to hit the ground running against the Blues.

He could have his work cut out against Pedro - against his old side - and Olivier Giroud, but the challenges are unlikely to faze a player who is calm in possession, strong in the tackle and quick across the ground.

We will also get early chances to see how well Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann are dovetailing into the set-up, and Neto can give Marc-Andre ter Stegen a decent amount of rest on tour.

How competitive Barcelona are in this match will probably be determined in the first quarter-hour.

Lampard isn’t likely to go with half measures because he has an awful lot to prove to the Chelsea faithful, so can Barca really afford to not match them in every department?