Chelsea's Premier League campaign began in the perfect manner as Jose Mourinho's team eased their way to a 3-1 away victory over newly promoted Burnley.
The performance drew plenty of praise from pundits, and key new arrivals Cesc Fabregas and striker Diego Costa certainly stole the limelight.
The Blues face a second promoted team when they host Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Nigel Pearson's team had a solid start, earning a creditable 2-2 home draw against Everton.
Before a preview, here's all the relevant schedule information:
|Saturday, August 23||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||Chelsea TV Online / NBCSN mun2||BBC Sport Website, Chelsea TV On Demand / NBC Sports Live Extra|
BBC.co.uk, ChelseaFC.com and SBNation.com
Cesc Fabregas Can Build on Excellent Start
Fabregas marked his return to the Premier League with a performance that had pundits purring. In particular, his deft touch to create a goal for Andre Schurrle was endorsed as a moment of genius.
That pass from Fabregas . . hasn't taken him long to show what a classy player he is #CFC— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) August 18, 2014
Fabregas was indeed exceptional against Burnley, although what he did shouldn't have come as a surprise. Fabregas routinely produced fabulous passes to create goals during his days with Arsenal.
His mercurial radar should be nothing new to Premier League audiences. It would be nice if pundits didn't act as if the playmaker has reinvented the wheel every time he splits a defence this season.
The joy of Cesc...Fabregas corner, Ivanovic close-range, 3-1 to #cfc. Fabregas already looking like one of the signings of the summer— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) August 18, 2014
However, there's no denying Fabregas' familiar class has created an extra element for Chelsea. As Matt Law of The Telegraph previously noted, the through ball was missing from the Blues' armoury last season:
"Incredibly, Chelsea attempted fewer through-balls for their strikers last season than relegated Norwich and considerably fewer than their title rivals."
The Schurrle goal was an example of the kind of stylish build-up Chelsea are now capable of. That creative verve, combined with Mourinho's fidelity to workmanlike defensive resolve, is what makes the Blues such a strong contender for the title.
Fabregas will continue his blistering start by finding a way to exploit a packed Leicester defence more than once.
Jamie Vardy has to Deliver for Leicester this Season
If the Foxes have a chance of staying up, that chance rests with Jamie Vardy. The 27-year-old was exceptional last season and recently had his efforts rewarded with a new four-year contract, per The Guardian.
Vardy is a player who troubles defenders with his quick and subtle movement. He makes smart runs and rarely spurns a chance once he latches on to a pass.
Whether Vardy can trouble a notoriously stingy Chelsea defence remains to be seen. The Blues are usually miserly at home.
However, it should be noted that Burnley did cause a few moments of panic at the back. That was on the rare occasions when Fabregas and company didn't own the ball.
Yet it's possible a player as sly and quick as Vardy could trouble an enthusiastic but positionally questionable centre-back like Gary Cahill. If Pearson's players are going to spring the ultimate shock, they'll need to snatch an early goal.
Can Chelsea be stopped in this season's EPL title race?
Vardy is their best chance, provided he's fully fit. Pearson will make a late check on his fitness, and Vardy has a chance to start at Stamford Bridge, per the Leicester Mercury.
Don't expect the Foxes to slow down Chelsea's early momentum. Mourinho's side is well structured and already displaying a fluency few other contenders have matched.
Brave resistance will only last so long before Chelsea's power and flair makes the difference.