Gabriel Slonina taking notes on Chelsea teammates’ preparation

On tour with Chelsea as they prepare for the upcoming season, Slonina is watching as veteran colleagues get themselves ready for the grind of a Premier League schedule.

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Gabriel Slonina and Chelsea will face Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night at Soldier Field.

Gabriel Slonina and Chelsea will face Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night at Soldier Field.

Julio Cortez/AP

Former Fire goalkeeper Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina is still in the learning stages of his European career. And that means more than just finding ways to sharpen his game.

On tour with Chelsea as it prepares for the upcoming season, Slonina, 19, is watching as veteran teammates get ready for the grind of a Premier League schedule.

“I’ve picked up a lot about how they’re able to mentally disengage from [soccer],” Slonina told the Sun-Times. “They do really well to make sure that when they’re off the field, they just relax, spend time with each other. That’s very important for me to see because previously it was just about being focused on [soccer], but now I think it’s very important to have that group of people you’re able to disengage with and get your mind off things, so you’re fresh when you get back on the [field].”

Slonina and Chelsea are scheduled to face Bundesliga power Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night at Soldier Field. Two years removed from a UEFA Champions League title, Chelsea is a club in transition, still adjusting to the ownership of American Todd Boehly after Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was forced out last year.

The team is also working under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, already well-known in England after his success with Southampton and Tottenham. That situation also could generate anxiety, but Slonina is noticing how his colleagues are coping with that and other pressure points.

“With a new manager, you obviously want to perform and show that you can be in the starting 11 on the team,” Slonina said. “I think that being able to stay calm in a situation like that is very crucial to being a top player.”

How much Slonina will work this season with Pochettino and the Chelsea first team remains to be seen.

According to reports, he is expected to go on loan to Belgian club KAS Eupen. If the move occurs, Slonina would gain valuable experience playing in a European league, building off his time with Chelsea’s Under-21 team last season and his senior-team debut in a friendly Sunday in Landover, Maryland, against Fulham.

Slonina was coy about the potential loan, and Pochettino wants to see more to properly evaluate him.

“[We must] decide on the best way for him to grow and [become] one of the greatest keepers in the world,” Pochettino said.

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