Stamford Bridge, London
August 18, 2013; 16:00 BST
Finally the long awaited return of the ‘Happy One’ is upon us. Jose Mourinho returns to the Premier League and their home match against newly promoted Hull City provides a perfect opportunity for Chelsea FC to get off to a fantastic start. The London club have resisted extravagant spending this summer and have concentrated mostly on recruiting young talents, but with Mourinho at the bench and what is perhaps the best attacking midfield in the league, Chelsea are one of the prime contenders for the Premier League this season.
Hull City on the other hand, have been quietly going about their business in the transfer market and have added some experienced players in their ranks. But despite the new arrivals, they are being considered as one of the likeliest teams to be relegated this season, along with Crystal Palace. It is also a return for Steve Bruce in the Premier League. His last stint at England’s tip division was with Sunderland, where he was sacked following a run of poor results back in 2011.
With the new season up and running, the world now awaits to see whether Chelsea can recapture their formidable form under Mourinho and whether he is still the ‘Special One’.
Team News and Tactics
Jose Mourinho has some fitness concerns to ponder about before his first match on his return to the Premier League. Spanish star Juan Mata is believed to be nursing a knee injury and will definitely miss the opener against Hull City. Reports also suggest that Mourinho will rest both Azpilicueta and Victor Moses after their involvement in international fixtures last week.
Azpilicueta’s absence means Ivanovic will start as the right back, with Terry and Luiz forming starting ahead of Cahill as the center backs. There is a big possibility of new signings Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel making their debut in this match. Van Ginkel will partner Lampard in the pivot a head of the defense and Mourinho sticks to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Lukaku will start upfront ahead of Torres and Demba Ba. The Belgium international is expected to have a big season at the Stamford Bridge, which could see Torres and Ba fall down the pecking order. Moreover, Mourinho is yet to give up on his chase for Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, and of the England international arrives in London, one of Torres or Ba is sure to depart from the club.
With Mata and Moses failing to make it to the starting line-up, Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schurrle is expected to form the attacking trio behind Lukaku. Chelse will have one of the paciest attack on paper upfront, which will suit Mourinho’s counter attacking tactics. Moreover, with Hull playing a three-man defense, Chelsea could exploit the wings to stretch the defense and create space in the center for the likes of Lukaku and Schurrle to exploit.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1] : Cech [GK]; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; van Ginkel, Lampard; Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard; Lukaku
Unlike Chelsea, Hull City manager Steve Bruce doesn’t have too many fitness concerns to deal with. Irish international Stephen Quinn is the one first team player injured at the moment. The 27-year-old is nursing a Hamstring injury and is expected to return in the second week of September.
Hull have been active in the transfer market and a lot of players will be making their debut for the club in this opener. Allan McGregor, Maynor Figueroa, Curtis Davies, Danny Graham, Yannick Sagbo and Tom Huddlestone are all expected to feature in the starting line-up. Whereas new signings Jack Livermore is expected to start from the bench.
Graham’s arrival could mean Sone Aluko will see less game time this season as Yannick Sagbo is expected to partner Graham upfront. Steve Bruce has mostly used a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation with this Hull side. McShane, Davies and Figueroa are expected to form the three man defense at the back. Brady, who along with Koren has perhaps been Hull’s most exciting player during their Championship campaign last time around, will start on the left wing, while Elmohamady starts on the right. Huddlestone and Meyler will form the central midfield partnership with Koren playing a more attacking role behind Graham and Sagbo.
While defending, both Elmohamady and Brady are expected to drop deep and form a five man defense at the back. Hull will try to get bodies behind the ball and make it hard for Chelsea to break them down. They will look to launch quick counter attacks with Graham their target man upfront. The former Norwich striker will be key in holding up the ball and allowing others to join in.
Probable Starting XI [3-4-1-2]: McGregor [GK]; Davies, Chester, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Meyler, Brady; Koren; Sagbo, Graham.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their four previous Barclays Premier League games against Hull City (W2 D2).
- The Tigers have won just one point from their last five Barclays Premier League away games in London. Hull last won a competitive fixture against Chelsea in October 1988 (2-1 at home).
- The Blues have won 12 and lost none of their last 14 opening day league games (D2), scoring 36 goals and conceding just 14 in this run.
- The last time Hull City won away from home on the opening day was back in 2002, when they won 3-1 at Exeter in the fourth tier.
- Chelsea scored the most headed goals (16) in the Premier League last season.
Player To Watch Out
Robbie Brady (Hull City)
New teams always brings along a sense of unpredictability and excitement to the Premier League. You never know which player will shine for them this season. Despite all the new arrivals Robbie Brady is Hull’s player to look out for this season. The 21-year-old is an exciting prospect and is coming of the back of a hugely successful Championship campaign. The former Manchester United youth team player was Hull’s most consistent performer last season on the left wing. He had the second highest tally of assists (13) in the league last season and can play both as a left winger or as a left wing-back. The youngster has already broken into the Irish national team, and one can expect to year a lot about him in the upcoming years.
Chelsea 3-1 Hull City
Hull City will find it hard to deal with Chelsea hugely impressive attacking prowess. They might look to make it difficult for the reigning Europa League Champions, but one can expect the home side to win this by a comfortable margin. One can expect Hull to get on the score sheet with some exciting talent upfront, but it will likely be mere consolation.