Premier League preview: Chelsea

Jose Mourinho will be anxious to put his turbulent Real reign in the past.
Jose Mourinho will be anxious to put his turbulent Real reign in the past. Photo: PA

Last season: 3rd

Rival teams will have been bemoaning the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge from the very outset based on his illustrious previous spell at the club and, rightly so it seems, as his charges look in great nick during their pre-season friendlies.

The Special One knows exactly what it takes to put a fire under his troops and he will be especially stirred up after his acrimonious Real Madrid spell. To say he had a falling out with the Spanish giants is an understatement and a half, his return to kinder pastures and a well balanced squad meaning that the Blues go into their season full of optimism.

Frank Lampard looks to have played his way back into the side after an excellent second half to last season, however Jose's other former lynchpin John Terry will find it harder to dislodge Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic in the centre of defence.

With Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta set to fill the full-back slots, the battle for midfield places will be intense alongside Lampard. Juan Mata was many people's pick for Player of the Year last time out therefore expect him to start with Ramires, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses, new signing Marko van Ginkel and the returning Michael Essien fighting it out.

Mourinho also possesses a wealth of talent to pick from for his front three with traditional strikers Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku aided on the flanks by fresh German recruit Andre Schurrle, Oscar, Eden Hazard and loan returnee Kevin De Bruyne.

Chelsea's title aspirations do not revolve around whether they lure Wayne Rooney from Old Trafford, the England striker an added luxury in a west London side primed for victories at a canter in the race against the might of Manchester.

Ins: Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen, undisc), Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem, £8.5m), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, free), Christian Cuevas (O'Higgins, undisc)

Outs: Amin Affane, Yossi Benayoun, Abdul Deen-Conteh, Paulo Ferreira, Hilario, Florent Malouda, Archange Nkumu, Ross Turnbull (All released), Thibault Courtois (Atletico Madrid, loan), George Saville (Brentford, loan), Billy Clifford (Yeovil, loan), Oriel Romeu (Valencia, loan), Daniel Pappoe (Colchester loan), Milan Lalkovic (Walsall, loan), Sam Walker (Colchester, loan)

Player to watch: Marco van Ginkel. Essien's injury problems, Mikel's failure to dominate and Oriel Romeu's Valencia loan mean the new highly-rated Dutch signing can stake a claim for the crucial holding midfield role in a showbiz side.

Something to prove: Petr Cech. The Czech keeper hasn't quite been the same superb keeper as he was during his early Blues days. With veteran Mark Schwarzer a more than able deputy, he needs to step up again during the title tilt for boss Jose.

Predicted finish: 1st

Title odds: 5/2

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