Carlo Ancelotti and his Chelsea side started with a spring in their step ahead of the new campaign after the Blues managed to put 10 years and six shootouts behind to finally succeed in a penalty decider.
A strong display against Manchester United, albeit with a controversial second goal, saw the Blues win the Community Shield on penalties. Chelsea went on to lead after falling behind early on through some lacklustre goalkeeping from Ben Foster, who allowed Ricardo Carvalho and Frank Lampard to capitalise on separate occasions. Some exquisite finishing was the only notable thorn in the Chelsea performance, a well-taken equaliser from Wayne Rooney and a thunderbolt from Nani pushed the game to penalties. Petr Cech may seem like the hero saving two penalties, but both were tame in their attempts from 12 yards. The game provided an air of optimism at the Bridge, with the fans in the know that three of the last four winners of the Community Shield have progressed to win the Premier League – a fact that can only breed expectation.
Off the pitch, however, the Chelsea camp has also been busy amid strong reports they are still in pursuit of AC Milan starlet Alexandre Pato. The papers suggest a £45m offer has been tabled, with Milan keeping the teenager on loan for the approaching season. If finalised, the deal would break the previous record set for a teenage purchase – currently held by Rooney’s move from Everton to the red half of Manchester. The deal may confuse many, as Chelsea’s shortage of attacking presence would not be facilitated by the Milan prospect returning to Italy on loan. The Blues would still rely on Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka remaining fit throughout the season and maintaining their form.
Jose Bosingwa is also on the back pages with a reported move to Bayern Munich – the German side having announced their interest in the experienced right-back. Bosingwa had a strong campaign under both Luis Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink but may have fallen down the pecking order since the arrival of Ancelotti. The Italian making his intentions clear on Sunday by fielding Branislav Ivanovic instead of the Portuguese. Despite this speculation, Wolves are set to be closing in on a season-long loan deal for Michael Mancienne. It can be expected to see one of the above deals progressing but would seem unusual to let two right-backs leave the club so close to the new campaign. On a more promising note to Chelsea fans, Carvalho has laid to rest claims he is on his way out of the Bridge after declaring himself happy at Chelsea. The defender was chosen ahead of Alex in the Community Shield and it may seem Ancelotti favours the Portuguese international to his Brazilian counterpart.
Further news this week involves the backroom staff with Stoke City academy manager Steve Holland signing a deal at the Bridge, seeing the 39-year-old become reserve team manager – a role formerly held by Reading manager Brendan Rodgers. The experienced Coach spent just over a decade at Crewe Alexandra before a brief spell at the Britannia, and will move to London on Thursday to link up with his new manager. Holland told Chelsea TV: “It is an incredible opportunity. Chelsea is obviously a huge club with terrific players and the opportunity to work at the top of the profession is one I am very excited about”. The former Stoke man joins Bruno Demichelis as a new addition to the backroom staff.
Despite these changes to personnel, focus will be placed solely on the pitch at 12:45 on Saturday, August 15. Chelsea take on a Hull City side whose form deteriorated in the second half of the 2008/09 season and the Blues will hope the Tigers are still lacking their eye-catching form they found after their promotion. The game will be the first to kick-off the new season as Chelsea look to exploit their early ‘weaker’ opponents. Onlookers can expect Chelsea to start with a 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation, with Lampard playing a more forward role and either Jon Obi Mikel or Michael Essien protecting a physically strong back four. Ancelotti has shown his ability with a powerful display in the curtain raiser last Sunday and he will look to continue in this manner on Saturday.