Premier League preview – Chelsea

Last season:

Premier League: 3rd

FA Cup: Semi-finals

League Cup: Semi-finals

Champions League: Group stage

Europa League Winners

While even he himself admits that he’s not the infamous ‘Special One’ anymore, Jose Mourinho’s return to west London was top of most Chelsea fans’ wish lists this summer. Their cravings were satisfied.

Nearly six years after leaving Stamford Bridge in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, the Portuguese has arrived back in the Premier League amidst the same media scrum which accompanied his public appearances in his first spell at the club. His level of self-confidence is the same too, as is his incalculable desire to win.

But at Real Madrid, Mourinho lost a bit of his sparkle. Whether it was the fall-outs with players or political boardroom struggles which wore him down, his three seasons at the Bernabeu left him shattered. A Blues homecoming is an ideal opportunity to rediscover his aura with style.

He’ll find much at Chelsea reassuringly familiar. The club are once again, along with the two Manchester clubs, among the frontrunners for the title. An abundance of talent populates the squad, which is arguably stronger than that with which Mourinho lifted the Premier League trophy with on two occasions in the middle part of the last decade.

The Ricardo Carvalhos and Didier Drogbas are long gone but still present are two of his lieutenants – John Terry and Frank Lampard. They will be key figures again, albeit in a reduced capacity, and their unquestionable support will prove to be a great bonus to Mourinho. Chelsea bosses have a short shelf life without the backing of the dressing room.

Alongside the wise old owls are some of the planet’s most sought after young footballers. Eden Hazard and Oscar, to name just two, are exhilarating maestros with the ability to unlock the most stubborn of defences. Having added Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel, the Blues possess one of the best squads in Europe, on paper at least. But there is a sticking point.

Invention and creativity in the final third is all well and good, but if there’s nobody inside the penalty area to stroke the ball into the back of the net, the aesthetics count for nothing. Though Fernando Torres scored 22 goals last season, only eight were in the league. Meanwhile, Demba Ba hasn’t had the desired impact since signing from Newcastle United.

Romelu Lukaku – fresh from an outstanding loan spell at West Bromwich Albion – will ease the striker crisis and get plenty of minutes, but Mourinho appears determined to snatch Wayne Rooney from Manchester United. David Moyes is reluctant to sell his want-away forward but if Chelsea can pull off what would be a magnificent coup, then he could prove to be the missing piece of the jigsaw.

But a new striker would be more of a bonus than a necessity. With optimism high, few would be surprised if Mourinho was to guide Chelsea to success on both domestic and European fronts this year.

Jose Mourinho declared himself the ‘Happy One’ but is he still special?

Manager – Jose Mourinho: The artist formerly known as the ‘Special One’ appears to be a calmer, more measured character after his jaunts on the continent – for now, at least. Whether he’ll be able to replicate his first spell at Stamford Bridge remains to be seen.

Key signing – Andre Schurrle: Chelsea are blessed with a plethora of attacking talent and the addition of Schurrle to the ranks only strengthens their hand. A key part of the German national side, the former Leverkusen man could have a big impact – either out wide or as a central forward.

Key sale – Florent Malouda: After becoming increasingly frozen out at Stamford Bridge, the departure of Malouda represents something of a deep clean in the Chelsea dressing room. With Ross Turnbull, Yossi Benayoun and Paulo Ferreira also having been shown the door, the chaff has been separated from the wheat.

Keep an eye out for…the emergence of Kevin de Bruyne: The Belgian playmaker has impressed onlookers in pre-season and this could be his breakthrough season in the Premier League – if he can leapfrog the likes of Oscar in the pecking order.

See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG

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