Bridge Banter: Can you hear the buzz of expectation around Stamford Bridge? (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Bridge Banter: Can you hear the buzz of expectation around Stamford Bridge?
Pre-season tournaments are seldom a guide to how the year will pan out, but there’s a buzz of expectation at the Bridge after Chelsea’s summer globetrotting.
Jose Mourinho won six out of seven warm-up games in Indonesia and the US – the only defeat coming against his old side Real Madrid in Miami.
The Blues’ second stint with the Special One at the helm officially starts on Sunday, when Hull City Tigers, as owner Assem Allam has rebranded the club, visit SW6.
Striker Romelu Lukaku, back after a loan spell at West Brom, is on form, netting five times to become pre-season’s top marksman.
Ramires scored three goals in the seven games, youngster Bertrand Traore two, Kevin De Bruyne (arguably Chelsea’s most impressive player in recent matches) two and Eden Hazard two.
Hazard’s form is also giving grounds for optimism as the Premier League gets going again. After a debut season in which he proved as good a provider as a scorer, notably setting up the two goals which let Frank Lampard surpass Bobby Tambling’s old goal record, the nippy Belgian is key to Mourinho’s plans, and will start on the left of an attacking chevron.
Life is good for Belgians at Stamford Bridge. Lukaku, De Bruyne and Hazard all hail from the land of chips and mayo, while four other Belgians are in the reserves or on loan, including Eden Hazard’s baby brother Thorgan.
Chelsea play two home games in rapid succession, with four days separating the visits of Hull and Aston Villa.
With Lampard, Juan Mata and David Luiz available for selection, but not fully match fit, it means there will be instant squad rotation, giving some unfamiliar names a chance to shine.
Andre Schurrle is the new No14 – a striker signed from Bayer Leverkusen, while Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel and Michael Essien, back from a year’s loan in Madrid under Mourinho, are in the reckoning.
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