With the 2013-14 pre-season now in the books, we can take a look at how Jose Mourinho used the players available to him ahead of the big kick-off against Hull City (Tigers?) next weekend.
Seven games across nearly 25,000 miles of travel saw in excess of thirty players turn out in what was undoubtedly the largest scale summer schedule the club has ever embarked upon. Some, like Eden Hazard and Ramires, were utilised extensively with injuries and unavailability in their respective positions, but by and large most of the first team squad saw sufficient time to be considered ready to undergo the rigours of a 60+ game season.
|Marco Van Ginkel||408|
|Kevin De Bruyne||245|
|John Obi Mikel||116|
(All numbers are general and do not include additional time added on at the end of each half)
Whilst it’s nigh-on impossible to predict the eleven names Mourinho will send out at Stamford Bridge next Sunday, it stands to reason to consider that he might seek to go with a very similar line-up to the one that took on Real Madrid in Miami a few days ago. That was
Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Van Ginkel, Lampard, Oscar, Hazard, Lukaku
It was Lampard’s first 45 minutes of an injury-hit few weeks though, and with Kevin De Bruyne both impressive and back to full fitness (and relieving him in the second half at Sun Life Stadium), he could easily come in for Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer. The rest of that starting group all rank highly in minutes totalled in Asia and the United States, with the exception of Oscar, who arrived belatedly following Confederations Cup duty. He has looked sharper and livelier than Juan Mata, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Fernando Torres and John Obi Mikel, who have each been eased back into things and will probably require a few more weeks until they’re ready for regular duty.
The plans will have been drawn up in great detail aimed not only at preparing as many players as possible to be ready for mid-August, but also to be in a position to get as close to ‘peak’ fitness by the hectic Christmas period. In recent years it has proven to be a troublesome time for the club, but in Mourinho’s first spell in charge it was the time of year when the Blues kicked on and turned the screw on their title rivals.
Whatever the merits of such a travel-heavy itinerary, for the first time in a while, those who are going to be called upon early and often have had an adequate build-up. Let the (real) games begin.