Barometer. Test. Marker.
Saturday’s round of matches in the Premier League are a throwback to the opening day of the 2013-14 campaign, and with the Blues travelling to the KC Stadium, it will be interesting to see how far they have come this season.
Way back in August, Chelsea blew Hull away. Their 2-0 victory felt almost like an extension of their pre-season such was the efficient nature with which they dispatched their opponents, who put up little challenge.
If we were looking for signs back then of what this Chelsea team could achieve, we would have been way off the mark, however.
As much as the opening day of any league season is eagerly anticipated, it does not tell us much about a team and their prospects for making good on their ambitions.
Take Hull, for instance. So convincingly defeated at Stamford Bridge, by that measure they should be odds-on for relegation. The table paints a somewhat different picture now, though.
Steve Bruce’s Tigers have eased their way into the campaign, with a 3-1 home victory over Liverpool in early December outlining the progress they have made since August.
Indeed, sitting in 10th position in the Premier League, Hull are proving themselves to be no slouches. We still have half of the season to play, although those odds on Bruce securing top-flight football for another season at least are shortening with every point they pick up.
The development of Bruce’s team since August is clear. It’s not so definite with Chelsea. It’s why their journey to Humberside on Saturday will tell us a lot more than the 19 games that have been sandwiched between their last meeting with Hull and Saturday's clash.
Mourinho’s Chelsea vision is one far from being complete. That much we do know. The Portuguese is still looking for his winning formula, something that is going to take time for him to fine-tune and perfect.
There will be small tests along the way, signposts if you like, that will determine how far down the road Chelsea are. The trip to Hull represents one of those signposts.
We’ve seen Chelsea remain undefeated against their title rivals this term, yet against the so-called lesser teams, they have come unstuck. Defeats to Stoke City and Newcastle United are proof of that, while West Bromwich Albion very nearly ended Mourinho's remarkable unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge.
After last week's matches, the FA Cup is now in full swing, making talk of banana-skin fixtures all the more apt. Returning to Premier League action on Saturday, come the final whistle at the KC, we'll know a little more about Chelsea's mettle and development.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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