Chelsea's 2014-15 campaign will put Jose Mourinho's equestrian skills to the test. After a fruitful summer, Stamford Bridge's "little horse" is now ready to race, and Roman Abramovich's hired jockey is expected to win his fair share of competitions.
All leading to the question: "What would constitute a successful season for the west Londoners?"
The Blues will find themselves in four competitions, and each possesses a unique challenge and should be handled differently. You might say Mourinho's "dressage" will be imperative to Chelsea's success or failure—as the Portuguese's tact with one competition will invariably effect the balance of the others.
We will go through the potential trophies by level of importance and establish the goals Chelsea should look to accomplish.
Capital One Cup
Mourinho has exclaimed his want to develop youth, yet—even with talents like Nathan Ake, Patrick Bamford, Nathaniel Chalobah and Lewis Baker in the system—progress has not exactly been forthcoming.
Finding Chelsea's Academy products some first-team experience in the Capital One Cup would seem an ideal place to begin. Luckily though, the youth would not be alone.
Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic and others may find themselves with reduced roles this season; their selection in cups ties would be paramount in teaching Chelsea's up-and-comers the Stamford Bridge blueprint.
Expectation: Whether making the final or being eliminated in their first game, this competition should be determined primarily by Chelsea's youngsters. If Mourinho exclusively uses under-21s—seasoned with veterans—a fifth-round finish looks plausible.
Should the Chelsea boss add more firepower to the mix, an appearance in the final would not shock.
While the League Cup carries little weight in terms of prestige, the FA Cup is the jewel of England's domestic knockout competitions.
Automatically entered into the third round, Chelsea making the final would mean playing six games. While the Capital One Cup should be determined by the youth, the FA Cup should see a gradual integration of the first team—starting out with the second team and a few youth players.
However, the FA Cup draw can be cruel. One might draw MK Dons or Arsenal—you never know. It makes Mourinho's man-maneuvering essential to long-term success.
Expectation: Eliminated by Manchester City last season, should the west Londoners avoid teams in the top five of the Premier League (and replays) until the semi-final, winning the cup seems within reason.
Additionally, if Didier Drogba's return does indeed commence, the Ivorian is a virtual lock to score in a Wembley Stadium-hosted final.
UEFA Champions League
The Champions League is second only to the World Cup in terms of clout. Every big team will be attempting to take the title of "European champions" away from Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid—Chelsea being among the contending pack.
Mourinho's side are ranked fourth in the UEFA coefficient, meaning they will avoid Los Blancos, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the group stage, but afterwards the restrictions are off. Among those four the defending English, French, Spanish and Italian champions (Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Juventus) will be hunting as well.
Expectation: All the Blues' weapons will be on display in the UCL: The likes of Oscar, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard will be unleashed from the start; the leadership of the remaining "old guard" will be likewise principal in Mourinho's quest to bring west London a second European Cup.
One cannot predict the draws in July, but there seems no combination to keep Chelsea out of the semi-final.
After reaching the quarter-finals, the competition becomes a lottery—Mourinho will just want his club to have a ticket.
Barclays Premier League
For all the doom and gloom, Chelsea were just five points away from taking the 2013-14 Premier League trophy from Manchester City. The difference being Manuel Pellegrini's side scored 102 goals, whereas Mourinho's outfit managed 71.
After acquiring one of La Liga's hottest strikers in Diego Costa, Chelsea may have solved the main problem holding them back: Goals from forwards. Mourinho will be unwise to abandon his defensive ethic, but having great defensive efforts being paid with three points, rather than one or none is the optimal outcome.
Expectation: Liverpool lost their manic talisman Luis Suarez but have gained £75 million, Arsenal have improved, Tottenham have a new manager, Manchester United have no European obligation and Manchester City are the defending champions: In short, Chelsea will face steep competition.
Despite Chelsea's new crop of stars—Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, etc—having heaps of talent, they are yet to win any domestic trophies. This Premier League campaign seems the perfect opportunity for them to write a new chapter in Stamford Bridge's annals.
A mere top-four finish would not suffice after last year's evolutionary growing pains. Barring massive injuries, anything short of John Terry hoisting the Premier League trophy would be an utter disappointment.
Winning trophies is not simple. Were it so, their arrival would not cause bouts of joy and the need for parades.
That said, Chelsea will start their 2014-15 campaign with the ambition to compete on all fronts. Winning the lot or even three would be fantastical, however, winning two of four trophies seems doable.
Manchester City won a double of sorts last season, there is no reason why the Blues cannot emulate or even better the Citizens' 2013-14 achievement.
Roman Abramovich and Mourinho are highly ambitious, the players are capable and Chelsea supporters will cheer to the death. With all three components on board, the sky's the limit.
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