If Cesc Fabregas, the orchestrator from midfield, had given them an impressive start in the Premier League, Chelsea’s Champions League group – drawn on Thursday, and where the sternest test comes from Schalke – would have given them even more confidence in their drive towards major silverware this season.
Recently, it has taken until his second season for Jose Mourinho to truly come alive. At Inter Milan, the Scudetto was retained in his first of two seasons, but it was the second which proved to be the crowning moment of his time in Italy.
In 2009-10, Inter had one of Europe’s most feared attacks, arguably the best centre-back pairing, and rumbled through the domestic and European campaign with stunning efficiency, landing a treble of Serie A title, Coppa Italia and Champions League.
At the end of his second season at Real Madrid, Mourinho finally seized the La Liga title from Barcelona in what was a largely impressive campaign. The turnaround from that 5-0 hammering at the Camp Nou had been complete.
This season at Chelsea, everything appears to be falling into place – and that’s on the assumption that Diego Costa’s injury won’t keep him out for the initially reported three months.
In the former Atletico Madrid striker, Chelsea finally have the forward none of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba or Samuel Eto’o could be last term. The added quality of Fabregas in the centre of the pitch, the retaining of Eden Hazard and Oscar amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the transfer window, and the solidifying of the defence via the recruiting and return of Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois would indicate that this will be another occasion in which Mourinho’s second year at a club bears fruit.
But despite what many have deemed an easy offering by Uefa, Chelsea’s best hope of major silverware still comes in the form of the Premier League title.
At this stage, there is no obvious favourite for the Champions League. Reigning European champions Real Madrid boast one of their strongest squads in years, and that’s even with the departure of Angel Di Maria and possible sale of Sami Khedira; Barcelona’s front three of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar is ludicrously good; Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to the end of his career, clearly, and having had the European Cup elude him for all his time at the top of the game, he’ll be out to get his and PSG’s hands on the trophy. And what about Bayern Munich? Atletico Madrid could be a surprise package once again. Borussia Dortmund, though having lost Robert Lewandowski, still have one of Europe’s supreme forwards in Marco Reus. And, let’s be honest, Juventus can only improve on their performances of last season’s group stage.
Chelsea are good, but there’s far too much in play to confidently say they’ll complete a clean sweep of major honours this season. Even the most confident of supporters would hold fire on entering such territory.
Embarrassingly, in hindsight, English football trumpeted the possibility of Manchester City landing all four trophies on offer to them last season. Indeed, they got off to a good start with the win in the League Cup final over Sunderland, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side made hard work of it, having to come from one goal down.
Evidently, there were many quick to forget Bayern Munich’s performance at the Etihad Stadium last season. Prior to City’s late consolation goal, they couldn’t get close to the Bavarians. When it came to the knockout stage, they were unable to negotiate a path through Barcelona.
The chance of a domestic treble also went out the window following City’s loss in the FA Cup semi-final to Wigan, and, it could be argued, Pellegrini’s side were fortunate to land the Premier League title. Had it not been for self-inflicted damage by both Liverpool and Chelsea, City would not have entered this season as defending champions.
The point is it’s too early to call on something so unpredictable as the European Cup, let alone confidently claim that a team from England can complete a clean sweep of major honours. Despite Chelsea’s win in the Champions League in 2012, the Premier League has not provided a team undoubtedly the best in Europe since 2008.
Luck may play a part, but clubs in England have a lot of catching up to do if they’re to overtake those from Germany and Spain.