Predicting Chelsea's First-Choice Starting XI for the 2013-14 Season
Entering the 2013-14 English Premier League season, Chelsea possess one of the deepest squads in all of England.
While that is an advantage to start the season, it may turn into a distraction if certain players do not get their fair share of playing time.
Something tells me that will not be a problem under new manager Jose Mourinho, who will most likely rotate his players throughout domestic and continental play, especially in the overcrowded midfield.
Here is a look at the best first-choice starting 11 that Mourinho could throw out on the pitch on any given day.
GK: Petr Cech
Let's just get the obvious out of the way early on in this slideshow.
Petr Cech is the unquestioned No. 1 keeper at Stamford Bridge and that will definitely not change this season.
We may be having a different discussion next season if Thibaut Courtois comes back to London but, for the time being, the Czech Republic international has nothing to worry about when it comes to job security.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic
Branislav Ivanovic is one of the most underrated players in world football and his contributions to Chelsea last season were immeasurable.
The man who scored the winner in the 2013 UEFA Europa League Final against Benfica can line up almost anywhere in the back four but in this lineup, he is best suited to play at right-back.
Ivanovic is a respected defender and his ability to sneak forward in attack on set pieces makes him even more dangerous when he is on the pitch.
Expect Ivanovic to get some stiff competition from Cesar Azpilicueta but unless an injury forces Ivanovic to play centre-back, the 29-year-old Serbian will be the first-choice right-back.
CB: David Luiz
As long as he is still a Chelsea player, David Luiz should be handed a spot in the starting 11 by Mourinho.
The 26-year-old Brazilian has been linked with Barcelona all summer but until a move is finalized or he announces he's staying at Stamford Bridge, his talents should not be left to waste on the bench.
Luiz is a massive target on attacking set pieces while he has a strong defensive presence as well.
Another reason to keep Luiz in the starting 11 is his ability to strike free-kicks and shots from distance, which he has made a living off of for the last few seasons.
CB: John Terry
Last season while Chelsea were stampeding through the Europa League and making progress in the EPL, John Terry was mostly watching from the bench.
This season, the club captain will be placed in a completely different role, one that includes him being on the pitch much more.
The Blues need an old, wise head to captain the back four and with Terry reunited with Mourinho, one should expect to see the towering Englishman back in the starting 11.
Terry's spot in the lineup is not guaranteed due to the fact that Gary Cahill is lurking on the bench in search of playing time.
However, if Terry puts as much effort into his play on the pitch as he did in the first Mourinho era, he will be just fine.
LB: Ashley Cole
Another veteran who is one of the few survivors from the first Mourinho regime is Ashley Cole.
Now 32 years old, the English left-back is reaching the latter stages of his career but that does not mean his performances will drop off.
Cole is a strong passer of the ball and with a world-class midfield in front of him, he will use that skill to his full advantage this season.
Pushing Cole for the left-back slot will be 24-year-old Ryan Bertrand, although he is likely to be used mostly to spell Cole during domestic cup competitions and a few other matches.
This is where the starting 11 equation begins to get much more difficult to solve.
Mourinho has the option of picking four different defensive midfielders in his favored 4-2-3-1 formation.
One of those two defensive midfielders who will start for the majority of the season will be Ramires.
The 26-year-old Brazilian is fearless in the tackle in midfield and is also an aggressive set-up man in attack.
While there are three wily veterans and a kid in the squad competing with him for his position, Ramires should beat all of them out for one of the two starting positions in defensive midfield.
DM: Frank Lampard
One of the three veterans competing for the spot alongside Ramires in defensive midfield is club legend Frank Lampard.
Lampard, who had been surrounded by plenty of speculation about his whereabouts for this season, decided to stay with Chelsea, a decision that could end up reaping plenty of rewards.
The 35-year-old Englishman is another of the remaining few who thrived under Mourinho when the Portuguese manager took the club to new heights in his first reign.
With a new-found fire lit under him from Mourinho, added to his lack of playing time last season, expect Lampard to have an impressive comeback season, if you want to call it that.
Fighting with Lampard and Ramires for the starting spots will be Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Marco van Ginkel.
Essien was away on loan at Real Madrid last season and his inclusion in the squad may not be the same as it once was.
As for Mikel and van Ginkel, they are two very interesting prospects in the defensive midfield, especially the young Dutchman who has impressed many during the preseason.
RM: Juan Mata
Juan Mata was one of the most durable players in the world last season as he played in 35 of the club's 38 EPL matches.
Mata also played in 29 other matches last season, bringing his 2012-13 season total to 64 matches.
Expect the 25-year-old Spaniard to put in the same workload this season as he continues to build his legacy at Stamford Bridge.
In the attacking trio of the 4-2-3-1, Mata could realistically line up in any of the three positions.
For the sake of this starting 11, Mata starts out on the right but he can easily interchange with the other two players in the attacking trio to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
If Mata were to move into the center of the attacking trio at any point this season, Mourinho has plenty of options to put out on the right including Kevin De Bruyne, Andre Schurrle and Victor Moses.
Oscar burst on to the European scene last season as he made 64 appearances in all competitions.
The small, versatile Brazilian is just 21 years old and there are no signs of a sophomore slump in front of him at the moment.
Just like Mata, Oscar is very versatile and can play all three positions in the attacking trio if asked to do so.
However, he is best suited to play in the center due to his short passing and dribbling abilities. A rangy footballer, Oscar also has a tendency to cut inside more often than his teammates.
If Oscar is unavailable at any point during the season, either Mata or De Bruyne would replace him in this position.
LM: Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard's name almost gets lost in the discussion of the Chelsea midfield due to the incredible talents of Mata and Oscar, but the 22-year-old Belgian is a world-class talent as well.
The prized possession of last summer's transfer window played out on the left for most of last season and of the three starters in the attacking trio, he is the least versatile.
That does not mean Hazard is not versatile; it just means he is more likely to preside over the left side of the pitch instead of shifting inward as the season goes on.
Hazard's ability to link up with Cole on the left will be crucial to Chelsea's success this season as they look to keep any large mass of defenders away from Mata on the right side.
The best second option on the left Chelsea will be Victor Moses, who will also play into the discussion at the forward position.
FW: Demba Ba
While Chelsea fans should not be concerned about the vast options in midfield, they should be worried about the slim pickings up front.
In his first full season at Stamford Bridge, Demba Ba will be forced to play a much larger role than the one he fulfilled last season, especially now he is fully eligible for all competitions.
Ba—like his potential understudy Fernando Torres—has a record of scoring at a blistering pace in the EPL and he should get every chance to prove he can do that once again this season.
Speaking of Torres, his well-documented inconsistency in front of goal since he joined Chelsea puts him at a disadvantage in the forward competition to start the season.
Behind the two star forwards, and maybe a potential new arrival, in the squad are Schurrle, Moses and Romelu Lukaku, who all should get a chance at some time or another to prove to Mourinho why they deserve a starting spot.
What do you think is Chelsea's best first-choice XI for the upcoming season?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.