Last season, the Blues clinched third place in the English Premier League just three points behind the runner-ups Manchester City.
And for the first time, they lifted the UEFA Europa League title after defeating Benfica at the Amsterdam Arena, which put Chelsea in the elite group of European clubs that have won all three major UEFA club titles. In other words, you could not call 2012-13 a disastrous year.
But to reach the number one seat in the EPL and UEFA Champions League this season, the Blues brought back their most successful manager, Jose Mourinho. And along with the Portuguese international coach came Romelu Lukaku, Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel, Kevin De Bruyne, Michael Essien and Mark Schwarzer over the summer.
With a loaded roster--so much as that Chelsea have put 17 players on loan--Mourinho should have plenty of options to choose from and adapt his team according to every situation he will be facing in the 2013-14 season.
Last year Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry had solid and consistent performances once again, which placed the Blues third in best defense in the EPL.
But if the backline may be almost defined, the same cannot be said about the attack. After seven pre-season matches Mourinho has not picked his main striker as Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku have all rotated in this position.
So it will be up to the midfield of Chelsea to try to lead them to possible EPL and Champions League silverware.
Last year, Lampard passed Bobby Tambling as the midfielder scored his 203rd goal against Aston Villa for the Blues, becoming the club’s leading goalscorer. This benefited Chelsea to reach the second best attack in the Premier League last season.
Also, Lampard signed an extension to his contract after the 2012-13 season was over, and he’ll remain at Stamford Bridge until the summer of 2014. Make no mistake that because there’s young blood in the midfield of the Blues, Lampard will take it easy in his possibly last season at Stamford Bridge. On the contrary, this could push him to place the Blues in the highest place of the podium.
And an example of how influential he still is to Chelsea, think back of the last friendly the club battled this summer against A.S. Roma.
The Blue were down by one goal and without any creativity play until Lampard entered in the middle of the second half. A few minutes after the substitution, he took the ball in the grand circle, rushed to the tip of the box, found a pocket in Roma’s defense and landed a 25 yard right-footer to equalize the match and switch the dominant side in the match. The Blues finished the game winning by 2-1. At 35, he's still got it.
The Spanish international enters his third year with Chelsea in 2013. So far he has scored 32 goals and assisted 52 times in 118 matches, proving why he is worth the $35.6 million paid to Valencia CF back in 2011.
His numbers are not only impressive but have naturally increased as he became more comfortable with the team. In the 2011-12 season, he performed 54 times scoring 12 goals. Then last year, he bumped his presence by 10 matches and seven goals.
Even though Mata, 25, missed most of pre-season this year with the Blues, his constant presence with the Blues while under both Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo demonstrates the confidence managers know they can deposit on the Spaniard. In addition, most of Mata’s goals last season came in the first 15 minutes of the second half showing how decisive the attacking midfielder is for his club.
Kevin De Bruyne
The Belgium international was part of the new arrivals this summer. Although he participated in the 2012 pre-season, with the Blues, he was sent on loan to German side Werder Bremen for further development at the age of 21. While in Germany, De Bruyne scored a total of 10 goals in 34 matches plus 10 assists in the 2012-2013 season.
Though the attacking midfielder will undoubtedly have the shadows of Juan Mata, Oscar, Andre Schurrle and Eden Hazard blocking his chances of a first team spot, De Bruyne looked very mature and completely used to his new teammates during this pre-season.
He was definitely the most surprising player against AC Milan in the International Champions Cup. He scored the opening goal and created many other chances for Oscar and Hazard in the first half. The kind of quality he showed could make him the go-to substitution for Mourinho throughout this season.
What are your three players to watch from Chelsea this upcoming season? Post in the comment section below.
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