After running away with the league last time around, Mourinho will be hoping that his side can repeat that dominance and secure a second consecutive Premier League title.
Chelsea’s relatively quiet summer transfer window thus far then is odd. Never normally one to shy away from big spending, Mourinho’s only dealings so far have been to replace departing players.
The signing of Asmir Begovic from Stoke covers the departure of Petr Cech to Arsenal, although the impact of the former Chelsea stalwart will be measured more in regards to how much he strengthens the Gunners than to the extent it weakens the Blues. Ahead of goal, the Premier League’s tightest defence last year looks as if it may have fragilities.
There is a question mark regarding how long John Terry can continue to defy the passing of time, but next to him Gary Cahill is solid if not brilliant, and behind him Kurt Zouma is full of potential, but still raw.
The sale of Filipe Luis back to Atletico Madrid leaves Chelsea with a worrying lack of depth at full back, with Cesar Azpilicueta both first choice left back, and cover for Ivanovic on the right.
The expected arrival of Baba Rahman should alleviate the concern to some extent, but the situation highlights what is a surprising lack of depth throughout the Chelsea squad.
In midfield John Obi Mikel obviously isn’t favoured, and although Ruben Loftus-Cheek is likely to get more minutes this term, Mourinho has never been one to place his trust in youth. That leaves Ramires as the primary back up for the impressive Fabregas/Matic axis. In the wide areas Willian and Hazard are the unquestioned first choices, but after them there is once again a surprising lack of options.
Juan Cuardrado is reportedly already up for sale despite only joining in February, Victor Moses has been on loan the past couple of seasons, and despite his excellent pre-season, it is hard to see him having a future at the club.
Up front the misfiring Radamel Falcao has arrived for the departed Didier Drogba, and Chelsea fans must have their fingers crossed that the Colombian can find his scoring boots, as last season Diego Costa’s injury problems meant that the creaking Drogba featured more often than the Blues may have wanted.
Loic Remy is an able forward, but better cutting in from wide areas than leading the line and is prone to injury problems of his own – and cannot seem to stay onside.
The starting eleven is fearsome. A world class goalkeeper, behind a solid defence, covered by the enforcing Matic, Fabregas pulling the strings, Willian providing industry, Eden Hazard’s star dust, Oscar’s intelligence and Costa’s aggressive, predatory forward play make for a title winning side.
The problem is that there isn’t a deep supporting cast. Mourinho has never been a manager to rotate heavily, always preferring to build momentum with a tight knit group of players, but could end up walking a dangerous tightrope should injuries strike again. With competitors strengthening, Chelsea will be in for a much harder fight this time round to retain their crown.
Key Player: Eden Hazard was the Player of the Year last season and will doubtless challenge for that accolade again this year. His pace and trickery is bolstered by an admirable strength, resilience and determination, and his end product is already impressive. The Belgian has already declared his intention to add more goals to his game, and will be the man Chelsea look to when they need a difference maker.
One to watch: Chelsea have a really impressive crop of young players, even if many are out on loan. Their small first team squad may see Mourinho blood more youngsters, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek the most likely beneficiary. Powerful and strong, yet also technically sound, Loftus-Cheek is capable of being both creative and destructive and will provide able cover, or partner for Matic.
Prediction: Chelsea will challenge for the title. Under Mourinho, with the players they have at their disposal that is inevitable. However, the competition looks stronger and Chelsea’s squad is small and injury prone in key positions. The Blues may well find themselves runners up without additions, but Champions with the right purchases.