Premier League preview - Chelsea
Premier League: 6th
FA Cup: Winners
League Cup: Quarter-final
Champions League: Winners
A summer redevelopment has seen Chelsea’s attacking force lose some key members and recruit prospects for the future. Blues owner Roman Abramovich saw his dream fulfilled with Champions League victory in Munich, but that was not enough for the Russian who is desperate for Premier League success after seeing his side finish sixth. Chelsea broke the bank for Lille playmaker Eden Hazard, paying £32m for the highly-rated Belgian, and backed up that deal by signing Marko Marin from Werder Bremen and young Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar from Internacional.
Potentially, Wigan winger Victor Moses will join the forward ranks at Stamford Bridge and the football will change from using the physical nature of Didier Drogba to the tiki-taka football Roberto Di Matteo is desperate to introduce on the King’s Road. Drogba has left for Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, linking up with Nicolas Anelka, and the Ivory Coast international will be sorely missed. Fernando Torres has struggled with goals since his £50m move to Chelsea and Di Matteo will be desperate for the Spanish international to find his scoring boots once again.
There had been rumours of former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola taking charge at Chelsea but Di Matteo’s performance in the second half of last season has merited a permanent deal. The Italian now prepares for the first game of the season away at the DW Stadium against Wigan, hopeful that they can achieve three points to give them a good start to the campaign.
Chelsea have to keep their form throughout the season and not fluctuate like they did under former boss Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo seemed to resurrect a group who had become involved in an apparent power struggle with Villas-Boas and looked a more united side under the Italian. The focus on attacking talent may be enough to get them through this season, but with Petr Cech, John Terry and Ashley Cole approaching the twilight years of their career, Di Matteo will need more funds from his owner to keep Chelsea at the top both domestically and in Europe.
Gary Cahill will look to get much more playing time this season in competition with David Luiz and Terry, while young England international Ryan Bertrand will challenge Cole. Young Belgian goalkeeper Thibault Courtois is still on loan at Atletico Madrid and is developing well for the future, so the Chelsea squad both now and down the line seem to have quality in abundance.
Abramovich will be delighted with his side’s pulling power and Di Matteo now has the task of moulding his side into potential champions. Chelsea are not at full power yet, as they showed in their Community Shield defeat to an understrength Manchester City side on Sunday at Villa Park. The Blues fans will take confidence from last season and Chelsea have the capability to worry sides with their attacking talent, providing their defence keeps firm as many predicted.
Manager - Roberto di Matteo: The Italian revitalised the Chelsea squad in the second half of last season and has the task from his owner of winning the Premier League this campaign. Di Matteo has the respect of his players and they are desperate to achieve glory once again.
Key signing - Oscar: With all the hype of Eden Hazard, the signing of the young Brazilian from under the noses of Real Madrid has slipped under the radar. Oscar has impressed for Internacional and looks to be a Brazilian international for the next decade, as well as cementing himself in the Blues line-up.
Key sale - Didier Drogba: Drogba’s decision not to extend his contract could backfire massively for Chelsea if they do not sign another striker. Fernando Torres still has yet to hit top form and the Ivorian showed in the Champions League final that he still has plenty to offer.
Keep an eye out for…Ryan Bertrand. The young left-back will be the future at Chelsea when Ashley Cole retires and Di Matteo placed his faith in Bertrand on numerous occasions last season. Bertrand will have more opportunities and can show that he is deserving of plenty of pitch time.
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