Chelsea's International Champions Cup Run: An Analysis of All 3 Games
New boss Jose Mourinho has returned to Stamford Bridge to lead Chelsea for a second time, and with the Chelsea squad full of youth and talent, the Blues will look to gather their first premier league title since 2010.
However, before we can look forward, we must analyze how Chelsea looks thus far under Mourinho this season.
After a tour of Asia, featuring trips to Bangkok, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Blues made a trip across the Atlantic to participate in the International Champions Cup in the United States.
Although it took place in August, the ICC seemed anything but a preseason tournament. The world's giants of football—such as AC Milan, Real Madrid and Juventus—joined Chelsea, looking to gain momentum heading into each of their respective league campaigns.
Read on for a recap of the Blues' three games in the States, and my analysis of the London club's performances for all three matches.
Chelsea vs. Inter Milan: August 1
In its first match of the International Champions Cup, Chelsea met Italian side Inter Milan in Indianapolis on August 1.
While Chelsea finished third in the EPL last season, Inter are coming off one of the worst campaigns in their recent history, only managing to finish ninth in the Serie A.
To put it lightly, this match was no contest from start to finish. While both teams were clearly in preseason form, Chelsea seemed to be in a different league than Inter.
Despite the Italians having a few half-chances in the early goings, Chelsea performed their typical defend and counter-attack style of play to perfection.
After newcomer Marco van Ginkel won the ball in his own defensive half, the Dutch youngster fed Victor Moses the ball, who then went on a brilliant 60 yard run. After eluding one Inter defender, Moses fed the ball to Oscar, who curled a stunning strike into the top-right corner to give the Londoners an early 1-0 lead.
Chelsea then got a second on a controversial penalty call, but Eden Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0, and practically put the game out of Inter's reach within the half-hour.
For the second 45, Chelsea were in cruise control, with Inter offering the Blues no threat whatsoever.
While there is no doubting that Chelsea did not put their best foot forward and could have displayed a more ruthful approach, it was a solid all-around performance from the Blues.
Mourinho, who coached against his former Inter side for the first time under Chelsea, deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, something that fans around Stamford Bridge have become used to for the past eight or nine months.
Moses and Hazard were two of the biggest threats of the night for Chelsea. Constantly giving defenders problems with their pace and trickery, there's no wonder why the two had a part to play in both of the Blues' goals.
A major surprise, in a pleasant way, on the night was new boy van Ginkel. The 20-year-old was deployed as one of the two pivot men at the defensive central midfield position, and looked as comfortable as anybody on the pitch.
Showing a great bit of maturity and composure on the ball, the Netherlands international provided a fine middle-man for Chelsea to transition from defense to attack. Fans should get used to van Ginkel's name sooner rather than later.
Overall, it was a comfortable display for Chelsea. While Inter clearly are not the shadow of the team they were while under Mourinho, the Italians still have some talent in them. But, Chelsea are clearly the better side, and showed that with their 2-0 victory over I Nerazzurri.
Chelsea vs. AC Milan: August 4
After a 2-0 victory over Inter, Chelsea came up against yet another Serie A side in AC Milan three days later at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
As was the case in Indianapolis, Chelsea put forth a quite convincing and comfortable performance.
Doing well to defend Milan's attack in the opening minutes of the game, Chelsea once again got out to an early lead through yet another young midfielder.
After beautiful combination play between Hazard and Oscar, the ball found its way to Kevin De Bruyne on the right side of the penalty area only 12 yards from goal. The Belgian calmly passed the ball into the bottom corner of the net, putting Chelsea up 1-0 in the 29th minute.
Thanks to some brilliant defending by centre-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill, the Blues managed to hold onto the slim lead throughout the rest of the game.
The Londoners even managed to extend their advantage in the dying moments of the game, when Andre Schurrle volleyed home a spectacular effort to put the final score at 2-0.
Going into the game, Chelsea knew that AC Milan would offer more of a threat than Inter did a few days earlier. After all, i Rossoneri boasted an impressive front-line featuring Kevin Prince-Boateng, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli.
However, two of the performers of the match, Ivanovic and Cahill, did wonders to calm the Italian attack and not provide them with too many chances on goal.
On the offensive side of the ball, the story of the day clearly was De Bruyne.
After suffering a knee injury in Chelsea's second game of preseason, De Bruyne clearly has been one of Chelsea's better players.
The Belgian can offer plenty on both the wing and in a central role, and was full of movement on the day. He will be a big-name at Stamford Bridge for years to come.
However, overall, it was a typical Mourinho performance from the Blues.
Known for his defensive brilliance, Mourinho had his players in perfect position to stall any Milan attack.
It was Chelsea's second consecutive 2-0 victory. Chelsea fans should get used to seeing that scoreline, as clean sheets will be practically a regular with Mourinho at the helm.
Chelsea vs. Real Madrid: August 7
After two convincing victories over Italian opponents, Chelsea were set to face their toughest opponent yet: Spanish giant Real Madrid.
Madrid, led by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, would undoubtedly play at an entirely different level than Inter and AC Milan did when they came up against the Blues.
The match offered plenty of subplots, namely Mourinho coming up against his most recent club.
After a seemingly-even opening, Madrid started to truly show their class.
Holding most of the possession, Los Blancos found a way through in the 14th minute, when Brazilian left-back Marcelo managed to fire a shot through Cahill's legs and into the bottom-right corner of the net.
Minutes later, Chelsea offered a quick response. Ramires, who was fortunate, got in behind Madrid's defense and lifted a deft chip over goalkeeper Iker Casillas to tie the game at one.
It was clear that Madrid were the better side on the night. They deservedly regained the lead in the 31st minute on a brilliant, yet typical Ronaldo free kick. Madrid went into halftime leading 2-1.
Things were different in the opening minutes of the second half, where Chelsea looked like a completely different team. The Blues pressured Madrid high, and looked like a more threatening side, doing well to keep better possession. Hazard almost tied the game once again, only to be denied by Casillas on a breakaway.
However, the Blues were a bit unlucky to see Madrid double their advantage after Ronaldo found space in a ball-watching back line to head home a brilliant cross.
The 3-1 lead stood to hold, and left Madrid as 2013 International Cup Champions.
First, let me start off by saying that there is no shame in losing to Real Madrid, especially in the preseason.
But, Chelsea just didn't look in the same league as the Spanish side.
Constantly being out-possessed, the Blues seemed to be chasing shadows at times during the match. Furthermore, Chelsea's back four was constantly caught ball-watching, no time more obvious than on Ronaldo's second goal.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hazard and Frank Lampard—who was making his first appearance of the preseason due to an Achilles injury—seemed non-existent for the most part. Additionally, Romelu Lukaku and Fernando Torres were too on their own during the match, making it difficult for either of them to get involved and make an impact.
Yes, it is only preseason. And, of course, they were up against one of the world's best in Real Madrid. While it is obviously not time to question Mourinho or doubt Chelsea's status as EPL contenders this season, it was clearly not a convincing performance for the Blues.
While Chelsea have as youthful and as talented of a side as any in the world, Wednesday's game versus Madrid showed that the Blues are just not experienced or mature enough to compete with the world's elite...yet.