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Chelsea's ideal starting XI

Chelsea's ideal First XI ahead of Swansea City opener and full 2015-16 EPL season

August 7, 2015 By Michelle Bonsu
Chelsea will kick off their title defense as they welcome Swansea City this Friday, August 8th to Stamford Bridge. We take a look at their ideal starting line up.

In less than 24 hours, Chelsea will welcome Swansea City for their first Premier League game of the 2015/2016 season. Things have not started off how Blues supporters would have liked, with a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield marking the first ever time Chelsea have lost to the Gunners under Jose Mourinho. However, after another frustrating defeat at the hands of Fiorentina, expect Mourinho's men to quickly get back to business and start proceedings off well with a victory at Stamford Bridge.

There have been some big departures this summer, including Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. Brazilian international Filipe Luis failed to settle in as left-back and was sold back to Atletico Madrid a year after swapping Madrid for London. In has arrived Radamel Falcao on loan to provide an additional attacking option, but the Colombian will have quite a lot of work to do to overcome his numerous skeptics after struggling at Manchester United.

Who will be the players Mourinho will be counting on to win some silverware this season? Let's have a look.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois

The rangy Belgian, who unseated long-serving keeper Petr Cech as Mourino's main man between the posts will obviously keep that spot. Despite the signing of Bosnian international Asmir Begović during this summer's transfer market, he has not done anything to impress his manager enough to change things up, and barring injury, expect 23-year-old Courtois to be the no. 1 for his club both in domestic play as well as in the Champions League. Last season, he showed his class by making 74 saves and keeping 12 clean sheets, two behind Manchester City's Joe Hart, who won the Golden Glove by making it through 14 games without conceding once.

Courtois, who spent two seasons at Atletico Madrid, has developed into one of the top keepers in England and across Europe

Defenders: John Terry, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic

Despite the emergence of young starlet Kurt Zouma, who at times displaced Gary Cahill from the starting XI, expect Mourinho to stick with his English center-back pairing of his trusted captain John Terry and the aforementioned Cahill. Filipe Luis attempted to displace Spanish international Cesar Azpilicueta from his perch at left-back, assumed once Ashley Cole departed, but the former Marseille man - who has also played on the right side - continued his strong performances to keep the new signing from establishing a foothold.

And with him now back at Atletico, Azpilicueta will again be the man Mourinho will be calling on to take care of the left flank. On the opposing side will be, of course, the sturdy Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic, who had a knack of scoring some pretty crucial goals for the Blues last season, including the winning goals during a league match with Aston Villa and a League Cup semi-final clash with Liverpool and a vital away goal against PSG in the Champions League.

Chelsea's back four of Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, and Ivanovic will mostly remain the same for this match and during the season

Critics of Chelsea often accuse the Blues of "parking the bus" due to their defensive approach in some of their games. However, without a solid defense, one cannot win a game - regardless of how strong their attack are. In total, Mourinho's preferred back four, combined with Courtois only allowed 32 goals in league play - making them the strongest defensive side as they never conceded their top-placed spot in the table through all 38 rounds. With the exception of Azpilicueta, all three of this defensive quartet were named in the PFA Team of the Year for the 2014/2015 term.

Moving forward from the defense, it should be noted that Mourinho, in theory only plays with one striker, meaning that the Portuguese coach stacks his midfield. On paper, it looks like a two-tiered arrangement, so we have split the midfield accordingly into two parts.

Midfielders: Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic

The partnership between Cesc Fabregas, who arrived from Barcelona last summer (much to the annoyance of Arsenal fans) and Matic can be best described as "Beauty and the Beast". Fabregas, who won his first ever Premier League title this past May did not take long to settle in to his new surroundings and link up with his new teammates, in particular Diego Costa.

His 18 assists in his debut season - one more than his 17 during the 2007/2008 campaign at Arsenal and two behind Thierry Henry's 20 in the 2002/2003 season - were certainly helped by the presence of Serbian international Nemanja Matic. With the lanky midfielder doing all the "dirty work", it allowed Fabregas to pick out those brilliant passes that he has become well-known for, and expect Mourinho to rely on Matic, another nominee to the PFA Team of the Year and Fabregas to again work in tandem.

Matic and Fabregas formed a formidable pair last season and fans will hope they can continue in this same vein of form this time around

Midfielders: Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian

Despite his irritating tendency to fade off as the season progresses, Oscar will nonetheless still enjoy his place in the starting XI alongside fellow Brazilian Willian and rising Belgian star Eden Hazard. A lot was expected of new signing Juan Cuadrado when the Colombian arrived from Fiorentina, as he was well known to Serie A fans due to his pace and trickery, but he so far has failed to secure his spot in the starting XI after arriving in January. Given that he did arrive midway throughout the season, it is possible that he might be able to force his way into the preferred line-up, but for now, it appears like Mourinho will stick with the Brazilian duo, and of course, Hazard.

As a result of his impressive rise to prominence, it is somewhat interesting to look back at those Blues fans who questioned Chelsea's £32 million purchase of Hazard in the summer of 2012. The PFA Player of the Year winner scored 14 and provided the assist on nine goals in 38 league appearances and his manager will be counting on him to step up his game even further this season.

Hazard, Oscar, and Willian form the nucleus of Chelsea's midfield attack and will be expected to improve their overall performance in this upcoming campaign

Striker: Diego Costa

Although Costa is still struggling with his hamstring problems that have plagued him at various points throughout his career, Mourinho may opt to risk the combative Brazilian-Spanish attacker as the Blues would like to bounce back following two straight losses by a win at Stamford Bridge. Neither Loic Remy nor new signing Radamel Falcao have demonstrated that they are ready lead Chelsea's line with their ineffective showing against Arsenal during the team's Community Shield loss. This will leave Mourinho with a tough decision as he will be keen on starting things off right on the right foot - by earning their first three points of the season.

Despite his injuries, Diego Costa still scored an impressive 20 league goals in 26 appearances. Should he stay fit, expect him to hit at least 30 this season

For now it still appears that the Portuguese tactician will still stick to one striker, but given how Falcao and Costa did well together at Atletico Madrid, fans will hopefully see a re-emergence of that intriguing partnership that played off each other under Diego Simeone's tutelage.

Here is Chelsea's ideal starting XI for their opener vs. Swansea and for the on-going season:

Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Costa

Assuming Costa is injured, then here's how it could look with either Remy or Falcao as the lone attacker:

Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Falcao (Remy)


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