Chelsea: Complete Guide for the 2012-2013 Premier League Season

Michael CernaCorrespondent IAugust 6, 2012

Chelsea: Complete Guide for the 2012-2013 Premier League Season

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    The start of the 2012-2013 Premier League season is less than two weeks away.

    Manchester City will look to retain its title, but standing in their way will be their city rivals and the defending European champions, Chelsea.

    Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle will also make their presence felt.

    Bleacher Report will cover each of the major English clubs extensively as we prepare for another exciting season.

    I begin this coverage by taking a look at Chelsea's upcoming season. I will briefly recap the summer before previewing next season.

    The transfer window is not yet closed so the team may look a bit different come September, but expectations and squad concerns will remain roughly the same.

    Without any further ado, here is Bleacher Report's preview of Chelsea's 2012-2013 season.

Schedule

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    First things first, let's take a look at Chelsea's schedule for next season.

    Click here to see a complete fixture list. As you can see, September kicks off the Blues' long, difficult Champions League title defense.

    For more in-depth coverage, click here to see Louis Hamwey's fantastic breakdown of the Blues' upcoming season.

    As Louis explains, Chelsea is in for a very long, congested season. Their domestic title hopes may come down to how well Roberto Di Matteo can handle so many fixtures while keeping everyone happy.

    Chelsea spent a ton of money on the squad this summer and that depth will certainly be tested this season.

Squad Concerns

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    Scheduling is not their only concern, though. There are plenty of other questions going into the season, as follows.

    Can John Terry focus with his off-field issues looming? Can the club deal with it quickly and smoothly?

    How will the team gel? Can the new signings integrate into the team and will everyone get enough playing time?

    Will Eden Hazard become Chelsea's version of Carlos Tevez or can RDM manage the club and keep the players happy?

    Allan Jiang discusses a few of Chelsea's concerns in the following articles, including Eden Hazard.

    What you must know about Oscar

    10 Things Chelsea Must Change for Next Season

    Why Eden Hazard Will be a Success in the PL

Transfers in

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    Here is a list of players that Chelsea has already brought in this summer:

    Eden Hazard (Lille, £32 million)
    Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, £6.2 million)
    Oscar (Internacional, £25 million)
    George Brady (Cannes, £250,000)
    Thorgan Hazard (Lens, undisclosed)

    Hazard is clearly the biggest signing for the club and maybe the biggest in Europe. His impact should be immediate and his potential almost endless.

    Oscar will become one of Europe's best subs and has high expectations going into the new season. Marko Marin will add more great depth.

Transfers out

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    Below is a list of transfers and loans out of the club:

    Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua, released)
    José Bosingwa (released)
    Salomon Kalou (Lille, released)
    Marko Mitrovic (released)
    Rhys Taylor (released)
    Jeffrey Bruma (Hamburg, loan)
    Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse, loan)
    Tomas Kalas (Vitesse, loan)
    Thibaut Courtois (Atlético Madrid, loan)

    The good thing for Chelsea is that all of these moves were expected. Drogba's leadership will be impossible to replace, but Fernando Torres will do his best to at least handle the scoring load.

Potential Transfers

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    There are still a few weeks left in the transfer window and the feeling is that Chelsea are not done spending quite yet.

    There are very few needs at Stamford Bridge, but Roman Abramovich continues to find stars who can improve the team.

    Here are a few players who may be wearing blue next season:

     

    Hulk (Porto)

    The powerful Hulk would be an instant starter and would give a lot of options in attack. His price tag may prove too much even for Abramovich, however.

     

    Victor Moses (Wigan)

    We continue to hear unreliable reports that Chelsea are nearing a deal for Moses. The club is looking to shave a few years off and the 21-year-old is a cheaper option than Hulk on the right side.

     

    Cesar Azpilicueta (Marseille)

    Right-back remains a concern after Jose Boswinga's exit, leaving the team light on depth. This young Spaniard has yet to reach the heights expected of him when he left La Liga, but a lot of that is down to injury concerns. He may finally hit his stride in London.

Key Player

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    It is hard to imagine Chelsea struggling to score goals considering the hundreds of millions of euros spent to strengthen the attack, but that is exactly what could happen again this season.

    Fernando Torres will now be the clear starter with Drogba gone, so there will be immense pressure on the Spaniard to regain his top form of years past.

    With Daniel Sturridge and maybe Romelu Lukaku the only options behind Torres, there is no top-class, consistent striker to be called upon if Torres slumps again.

    One would imagine that he would find it much easier to score with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard behind him, but as he showed at the Euros this summer, a lot of his worries are not overcome by world-class teammates.

    How will Torres handle full control of the attack? He will be trusted from the start; what if he fails? Can Sturridge and Lukaku step in up and provide the goals needed?

    Chelsea has world-class talent throughout the starting XI, but striker is one area that looks to be short on elite goal-scoring options.

    One former superstar and two youngsters may not be enough for the Blues. That makes Torres the key to Chelsea's season.

Starting XI

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    Chelsea is fortunate to be one of Europe's deepest squads with lots of options at nearly every position.

     

    Defense

    Branislav Ivanovic should start on the right side even if Azpilicueta is brought in. His size and physicality makes him the preferred option initially.

    Gary Cahill may replace David Luiz in the middle, especially if the Brazilian has another poor first half, but Luiz played his best football under Di Matteo last season.

     

    Midfield

    Mikel has frustrated fans in the past with his inability to create that killer release, but has really grown in the past year.

    He is solid defensively, has great feet and does well to win the ball as the holding midfielder. His pass completion rate also makes him the best option as the deep pivot.

    Frank Lampard will struggle to start every match, despite thinking that he's still in his mid-20s. Raul Meireles will spell him often as well as Michael Essien—if he remains at the club.

    Ramires may be moved back as the second pivot, but that would limit his usefulness. His composure on the ball and quickness make him a very dangerous weapon on the counterattack.

    The midfielder also adds a solid defensive presence on the right side that was seen, but underappreciated against Barcelona in the Champions League last season.

Tactics

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    Chelsea will continue to use Di Matteo's 4-2-3-1, while a shift to a 4-3-3 also creating alternatives options.

    On paper, Chelsea has one of the best midfields in all of football. But the squad will need time to understand each other with Hazard now on the team.

    There are also still a few concerns about how well the pivots can utilize their time on the ball and how quickly they can find space.

    The midfield will need to be assertive, yet free flowing and relentless in attack. This will take time to master, but the squad is built for just this style of football.

    On the left, Hazard failed to win his No. 10 jersey, but that will not stop him from helping Mata create chances for Torres. That pairing could become one of the best in football.

    The flanks will receive added protection, but from opposite corners of the pitch. 

    Cole will provide nearly all the cover on Chelsea's left while Ramires will be asked to provide protection for the often suspect defensive play of Ivanovic on the right side.

    If Chelsea can get firing on all cylinders, they could be one of Europe's most enjoyable teams to watch this season.

League and Cup Expectations

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    Last season Chelsea was incredibly disappointed in the Premier League. That is the main reason the club has spent so much money this summer.

    The starting XI is as good as any in England and that alone makes them contenders. Aside from striker and perhaps left-back, there is enough depth to cover any injury on the team.

    The younger options in midfield and attack—such as Oriol Romeu, Oscar and Sturridge—makes winning multiple domestic trophies possible.

     

    Expectations

    Chelsea will target the Premier League title with a top-three finish being expected. The league and FA Cup titles will also be realistic targets.

Champions League Expectations

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    When it comes to European competition, the starting XI wins the key matches, while depth wins titles.

    In order to even make a Champions League final, teams need to have solid depth at every key position. Those players are needed to step up in late group stage games and fill in when starters need rest.

     

    Expectations

    With the talent and depth on this Chelsea squad, history will be the target. Chelsea will be contenders for the title and may be the first team in history to repeat as champions.

    If the club falls behind in the league, expect Europe to become the priority. If not, balancing the two will be difficult, but Chelsea is as deep as any club in Europe so retaining the title has to be the goal.

Conclusion

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    Now I turn it over to you readers.

    What are your expectations for Chelsea going into the season? There are a few potentially large concerns for the Blues that may prevent them from fulfilling their potential.

    Will Roberto Di Matteo prove to be a top manager and not just one who took over a talented squad at the right time? Can he manage such a talented group of stars without weakening the team?

    Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

     

    Check back tomorrow as Tony Mabert and Karl Matchett continue Bleacher Report's coverage of the 2012-2013 Premier League season with previews for Tottenham and Liverpool, respectively.

    Also, please check out my latest articles:
    Santi Cazorla to Arsenal: What it Means for All Parties Involved
    Why Real Madrid Will Have Barcelona's Number in La Liga Next Season