After a long summer break, the new Premier League season is almost ready to kick off. The big question on Chelsea fans’ minds is how do they follow up from such a great season? We predicted Premier League and League Cup success last year, and now we’re sticking our neck on the line again, as we take a look at what the next nine months has in store for the Blues.
This year the campaign kicks off in style, with a trip to Wembley to meet neighbours Arsenal. The traditional curtain raiser between the league and cup winners doesn’t always mean as much as suggested. The media build this game up, but Arsenal’s 3-0 win over City last year didn’t really affect the outcome of the league. City finished second, the Gunners ended up well off the pace in the battle for the title.
Despite that, there’s no doubting Chelsea will be taking this game seriously. There’s still a trophy on the line, and Jose Mourinho has an unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger to protect. The Blues manager has won this trophy once, and lost in 2006 and 2007. We think he’ll be lifting the Shield at Wembley though, giving his side the perfect start to the year.
LCN Community Shield Verdict: Winners
The League Cup became the first trophy of Mourinho’s second spell back in March, when he lifted the trophy for the third time. Heading into this campaign, it’s tough to see the Blues going all the way here again. You get the feeling the victory last season will see their priorities shift, with other titles taking the focus off the League Cup.
In his first spell, Mourinho’s two League Cups were separated by a season where they didn’t really feature in the competition, and it’s easy to see that being the case here again. He’ll likely give more squad players a chance in the cup games early on, preferring to concentrate on the Champions League, and later on, the FA Cup and Premier League.
LCN League Cup Verdict: 5th round
Mourinho’s love of English football extends to its oldest competition, the FA Cup. The Portuguese has won the famous trophy just once, back in 2007. Exits to Newcastle United and Liverpool prevented a league and cup double in 2005 and 2006, while last year the Blues were dumped out by Bradford in one of the biggest cup shocks in history.
That defeat clearly affected Mourinho, as he rung the changes after that game, and even cleared out some of the squad players who underperformed that day. The mess that the defence became without John Terry could be the driving factor behind the pursuit of John Stones. The captain didn’t miss a game after that, showing just how crucial he is to the team.
Mourinho will probably feel like he has demons to exorcise after the Bradford defeat, and we see him putting a lot of focus on this trophy. Expect to see stronger sides picked for the cup, as he tries to avoid a repeat of last year’s early exit. Adding the FA Cup to the cabinet would be a great achievement, especially if it’s done alongside the league title. We expect the Blues to taste success in this competition once more, ending the dominance that Arsenal have had in the last few seasons.
LCN FA Cup Verdict: Winners
Even with that Bradford defeat, the Champions League had to be Chelsea’s biggest failing last season. They looked far from their best in the group, and then were put out by PSG despite dominating that tie. The Blues failed to defend a lead, plus an away goal against a 10 man side, with their lack of ruthlessness costing them dearly. That exit showed that they still have some way to go at the highest level.
Winning back the European Cup will be Mourinho’s ultimate aim. After winning it with two clubs, he’ll want his third to come at Stamford Bridge. It was the only cup missing in his first spell, and he’s surely looking to make up for that. It may be the young nature of the squad, or the abundance of flair players in midfield, but the Blues just don’t have that lethal quality to kill teams off in ties. Until they can do that, they won’t be serious contenders for the biggest prize in club football.
LCN Champions League Verdict: Semi-finals
The Champions come into the season as favourites with bookmakers and pundits alike. After dominating the league last term, they are going to be in the picture to win it again this year. Given how the other top four sides have strengthened significantly since the end of last season, can the Blues hold them off and retain the trophy?
This season is promising to be one of the greatest battles for the Premier League title in years. Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs have all spent money, adding more quality to their squads. The signing of Petr Cech plugged a key weakness for Arsenal, while United have added a lot of talent to their midfield, as Louis van Gaal continues to rebuild the Red Devils. Manchester City made their intentions clear, signing Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for a £49million fee.
As far as the bookies are concerned, all three of those sides can challenge Chelsea for the title. The Blues’ limited business means the chasing pack will fancy their chances, but even without spending big this summer (though there is still time for that), Mourinho still has the strongest squad in the league at his disposal. He’s added depth with Asmir Begovic and Falcao, while returning loan players can fill out the squad if needed.
The other key thing to remember is that Chelsea won the title through consistency. The challengers all faltered at some point, while the Blues kept steady and sealed the title. The new signings by the other clubs don’t look to have fixed that problem just yet, while Chelsea have done little to affect the balance of their side. It will certainly be closer than last time around, but we confidently predict that the title will be staying at Stamford Bridge for at least another year.
LCN Premier League Verdict: Winners