A look ahead to what awaits the reigning European Champions this season

Last Season: 6th
In: Oscar (Internacional, £25m), Eden Hazard (Lille, £32m), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, £8.6m), Thorgan Hazard (Lens, £800,000), Kevin de Bruyne (Genk, fee undisclosed)
Out: Kevin de Bruyne (Werder Bremen, loan), Saloman Kalou (Lille, free transfer), Jose Bosingwa (contract expired), Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua Liansheng, free transfer)
If they were an Olympian: Michael Phelps. Inconsistent past couple of years but still ends up with stacks of trophies when it really mattered.

For Chelsea to enjoy a more eventful season than the one just gone, E.T. would have to land in the middle of Stamford Bridge, rifle in a 30 yard screamer and then jump back on his bicycle and fly away. Last season was Chelsea's worst league performance since Roman Abramovich brought the club in 2003, with the club finishing 6th behind Newcastle, a club whose entire first team squad cost less than Fernando Torres and David Luiz.

Yet this poor league season pales into insignificance when compared to the remarkable end to the campaign the club experienced. The F.A. cup was won for the fourth time in six seasons and then most incredibly of all the club lifted the Champions League trophy for the first time. The question on everyone's mind is how can Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo possibly match this?

No one could accuse the club of resting on their laurels; over £50m has been spent recruiting Oscar, Eden Hazard and Mark Marin with more arrivals on the horizon, with Victor Moses (Wigan) and Spanish right back Cesar Azpilicueta (Marseille) strongly linked. Clearly the club is moving away from the Didier Drogba dominated attacking philosophy that has served Chelsea so well and moving towards a less rigid attacking formula with Torres as its spearhead. The question is will it work? On paper the club possesses an outstanding array of attacking talent; Torres, Juan Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Marin not to mention established players such as Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda (who may still leave) will all compete for starting berths. Keeping all these players happy will certainly be a challenge as all of them are accustomed to being the focal point of their sides. However with plenty of games this season, including the Club World Championship in Japan over Christmas, Di Matteo will be thankful of such attacking depth.

The issue for the Italian is whether he can build on last years success and mount a challenge for the Premier League title. The formula at Chelsea in recent years has been win the league you stay, fail, and you go. With Pep Guardiola waiting in the wings, the pressure will be on Di Matteo from the start and a poor start to the season will raise questions and draw comparisons with Kenny Dalglish's time at Liverpool where he struggled to deliver after a successful care-taking period.

Chelsea struggled at the back last season, with Andre Villas-Boas asking the team to play a high line and pressing game that they were wholly unsuited to. However with so many talented forwards Di Matteo will need his team to play high if they are to control games and provide opportunities for his attacking players to influence the game. This could be the season where John Terry begins to be eased out of automatic selection, with Gary Cahill and David Luiz both more suited to playing higher up the pitch as well as being comfortable on the ball. If Terry is banned by the F.A. over the Anton Ferdinand affair and misses the opening games of the season he may struggle to win his place back.

The departure of Drogba will leave a huge hole in the club. Few players in recent years can rival his impact in "big games" and his record in finals was nothing short of remarkable. Without him Chelsea lack the power that they were known for at the height of their powers and Torres will not relish the physical battles with centre halves that the Ivorian did. What Torres will offer is a genuine threat in behind and with so many talented schemers around him, goals will surely follow. Whether they will be enough to bridge the gap with City and United who finished 25 points ahead of them is a big ask.

Chelsea look the most likely challengers to the Manchester monopoly but despite the admirable work of Di Matteo and the heavy spending of the club the same problems may persist. Egos in the dressing room and an aging spine. Whether the likes of Petr Cech, Lampard, Ashley Cole etc can deliver the type of performances they managed at the end of last season throughout an entire campaign is a big ask.


Predicted Finish: 3rd

Key Man: With Drogba gone the burden of firing Chelsea back to domestic dominance rests firmly on the shoulders of Britain's most expensive footballer. Having won the golden boot at the European Championships, Fernando Torres' confidence should no longer be an issue. The question is whether he can deliver the 25+ league goals that is required of him. Firmly established as the club's leading striker with Drogba gone expect the team to play more to his strengths with Juan Mata in particular being tasked with supplying the ammunition for his countryman. If Torres fires Chelsea could challenge, if he doesn't they have major problems.

Underrated: Whilst John Terry does everything humanly possible to garner attention on the pitch, his fellow defenders Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz were every bit as important to the club's success last term. Cahill proved a lot of people, myself included, wrong and showed he could adapt to the pressures of European football with a fine performance in the Champions League final where neither he nor David Luiz were fully fit.

One to Watch: With all the attention likely to be focused on big money signings Hazard and Oscar, Marko Marin has managed to avoid too many headlines. No bad thing as Hazard in particular will be under intense scrutiny after his unedifying attempts in drawing out his departure from Lille. Able to operate anywhere across the front the German is a tricky operator who can score and create. An inconsistent last season in the Bundesliga means that he has much to prove.