Premier League Preview - Chelsea
MANAGER: Roberto di Matteo
STADIUM: Stamford Bridge (41837)
LAST SEASON: 6TH
Chelsea had a season to remember for all the right and wrong reasons - starting off well, having a mid-life crisis and ending in Champions League glory. Drama in spadefuls for Chelsea supporters to take in. Andre Villas-Boas was an experiment that Roman Abramovich wasn't willing to wait for - placing his faith in youth a tad prematurely, the Portuguese boss was soon ousted after a succession of poor results.
Roberto di Matteo was charged with the helm at Stamford Bridge and it proved to be the perfect appointment, rather stumbled into by the hierarchy that craved success. Di Matteo delivered a seventh FA Cup before pulling off a frankly unbelievable result to knock Barcelona from the Champions League - they went on to win the competition after beating Bayern Munich on penalty kicks. A fine finale to a tumultuous campaign.
IN: Eden Hazard (Lille, £32m), Oscar (Internacional, £25m), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, £7m), Thorgan Hazard (Lens, free)
OUT: Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua, free), Jacob Mellis (Barnsley, free), Salomon Kalou (Lille, free), Jose Bosingwa (released), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, loan), Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion, loan), Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen, loan), Sam Hutchinson (Nottingham Forest, loan)
Chelsea have appointed di Matteo and backed their man in the market. Odd considering they have been frugal at times but expansive at others. Eden Hazard was a highly sought after capture and Oscar is somewhat of an unknown quantity in European football. Some however will point to the loss of some experienced players in Drogba, Kalou and Bosingwa to temper the positivity.
Drogba's boots in particular are sizeable ones to fill considering his contribution to the recent revolution in SW6 and while the introductions are exciting, they are unproven in terms of the English top flight. Making this a rather unpredictable campaign for the Blues and one in which they will have to show great patience with their younger players and indeed management.
KEY PLAYER: Fernando Torres
Much has been made of the demise of the Spanish international, but his timely return to form at the latter part of the season helped Chelsea to a memorable Champions League win. Can Torres recover the form from the ruins that have been his spell at Stamford Bridge, or will the demise continue for the once formidable forward?
The forward started life at Atletico Madrid where the world's elite had their eyes cast on the young Spanish forward - and it was Liverpool that eventually captured the forward for £20m. This led to Chelsea sniffing around the forward when European football was not achieved and a £50m fee was paid but ultimately weighed heavy on the forward, who seemingly could not score from countless attempts - while he has scored goals, indeed some of great importance, his form continues to suffer.
I fully expect Chelsea to improve on last season which wouldn't be tough considering their lowly finish relatively speaking. A strong side built of a bedrock of experience, will this be one season too far for Lampard and co. or can they roll back the years to steer the Blues higher and challenge the new elite?