With Mourinho’s official homecoming under a week away and all pre-season friendlies wrapped up with a record of P7 W6 L1, our attention turns to that opener with Hull and which eleven players will be wearing the Chelsea shirt?
As with many modern managers, Mourinho has organised his players and afforded each a certain amount of minutes playing time before the season gets underway.
The first-leg of pre-season is difficult to analyse as the squad was missing six big players in Mata, Luiz, Oscar, Torres, Azpilicueta (Dave) and Mikel, and the opposition wasn’t particularly strong.
So instead I am using information from the second-leg of pre-season in the US. The players with the most game-time from the US leg were Cahill, Terry and Ivanovic all playing 285 minutes. Not far behind were Ramires and Hazard both approaching 260 minutes and Van Ginkel managed to get 230 minutes under his belt while Ashley Cole was the only other player to play more than 200 minutes despite missing the final game against Roma.
So from this information it seems pretty clear that the backline will consist of Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Cole in front of Petr Cech. The rest of the team is a little harder to pick out not least because the formation is not certain.
Mourinho swapped the 4-2-3-1 in several matches for the 4-3-3 and with such versatility in the likes of Oscar, Ramires, De Bruyne, Schurrle and Lampard, the midfield could consist of several combinations.
Of the central midfield players (Lampard, Essien, Ramires, Van Ginkel, Mikel), Ramires and Van Ginkel have both played over 200 minutes and only Essien joins them in playing all four matches. Mikel managed 110 minutes since joining late from the Confederations cup but Lampard has struggled with an injury restricting him to just 90 minutes of football, although those 90 minutes came in the last two matches.
Taking all this into account, it would seem likely that whichever formation Mourinho picks for the first match, Ramires will almost certainly be in it. Lampard’s inclusion may depend on his fitness and whether or not he plays for England on Wednesday. Essien, Mikel and Van Ginkel are in direct competition with each other and it is the latter who has played most under the new manager.
As for the creative side of midfield, Hazard is like Ramires, on that team sheet under all circumstances. Last season’s Player of the Year Juan Mata may struggle to secure a starting berth as he only played 90 minutes of football however both he and Torres have not been included in the Spain squad that travels to Ecuador while Azpilicueta will make the trip.
The Belgian trio of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku will join up with their national side for a friendly with France. David Luiz and Oscar will both travel to Switzerland with the Brazilian national side and Ivanovic will travel to Colombia as the captain of the Serbian national side.
Van Ginkel and Schurrle are both included in their national squads for Holland and Germany respectively and Mikel and Moses round off the travelling Chelsea players as they will join the Nigerian squad who play South Africa in Durban.
Despite all these players travelling around the globe just days before our opening match with Hull next Sunday, it is fair to assume that many will not feature too heavily but some minutes would be good for some to get under their belts.
Now we are in a better position to assess the attacking third of the team and it appears despite playing less in pre-season, Mata and Torres will both start against Hull due to the managers’ comments about travelling players and not playing the first match due to tiredness.
So, providing we start with a 4-3-3, I predict this starting eleven: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Mikel, Hazard, Torres, Mata.
In a 4-2-3-1 we could see Oscar coming in for Mikel although De Bruyne has been impressive throughout pre-season.
The squad looks strong and players like Moses, De Bruyne and Van Ginkel have impressed meaning competition for places at Chelsea has not been so strong since Mourinho’s first spell in charge.
I believe Mourinho will play a 4-3-3 formation with Torres up front supported by Hazard and Mata. The middle three is where things get complicated as Ramires seems to be the only certainty. Oscar could occupy a deeper role and against a newly promoted side like Hull, he could really dictate play.
Whichever team starts it is sure to be a strong one with a very strong bench to support it. There is a good feeling about Chelsea this season and I think we will seriously challenge for that title come May but first things first – three points at home to Hull please.
Written by Asa Gibson, you can follow him on Twitter here
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club