Oh we back. And so is this guy ...
Sure, the World Cup was nice. Well, not that nice (refer to one Mark Van Bommel). But I know can't be alone in feeling not just excited, but relieved, that Premier League season 2010-11 is only a few harmless days away from becoming a reality.
Those days will surely pass in no time, too. In the meantime, we have some preseason matches - and a ridiculous amount of transfer speculation - to field. Our first of such friendlies will be against Championship side Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The what: Preseason friendly, 1 of 4 – Crystal Palace v. Chelsea
The where: Selhurst Park (26,309)
The when: July 17, 3pm local time (10am EST)
The how: ChelseaTV, online streaming
Crystal Palace —
Previous Team (v. Crawley, 13 July): Speroni, Wright, Remie (Bruno h-t), McCarthy (c), Barrett, Djilali (Zaha h-t), Danns (Pinney 85), N'Diaye (Holness 73), Dorman (Cadogan 69), Lee (Andrew h-t), Morgan (Bridcutt 64).
Out: Who knows?
How Palace remains in the Championship is unknown to me. Club turmoil, then crisis. A 10-point deduction. And yet they remain only a tier below the top flight. You have to love this game.
The CPFC consortium successfully negotiated the purchase of the club and its stadium at the close of last season, perhaps lending some much-needed stability to a club that lost talents such as Victor Moses and quite a manager in Neil Warnock. The former Scotland boss George Burley has been installed as manager for the upcoming term.
Among Burley's new signings - following a mass reshuffling - include David Wright, who played under Burley at Ipswich Town, former Southend FC defender Adam Barrett and ex-St Mirren midfielder Andy Dorman on a free.
Provisional Team (speculative): Petr Cech, Ross Turnbull, Hilario, Alex, Sam Hutchinson, Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick Van Aanholt, Ryan Bertrand, John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, Jack Cork, Cono Clifford, Nemanja Matic, Josh McEachran, Daniel Sturridge, Franco di Santo, Scott Sinclair, Milan Lalkovic, Aliu Djalo, Gökhan Töre
Unavailable: Benayoun (groin), Bosingwa (knee), Zhirkov (groin), Mancienne (thigh), a host of internationals
"Essien will start tomorrow, maybe for 45 to 60 minutes. I don't want to use players for all 90 minutes. It is the first game so we don't want to take a risk to put players out for 90 minutes."
What else is there to discuss? The Bison to pillage once again - fabulous.
What to watch for:
• Um, Michael Essien?
Obviously. Essien will step onto a field, in a blue shirt, for the first time in some six months.
Seeing as I consider Michael if not the most talented certainly the world's most dynamic midfielder, this is more than akin to a new signing. It's better. His return makes for compelling viewing.
I'm certain most, if not all, Chelsea supporters will be tight-roping between excitement and nervousness during his shift. Please emerge unscathed. Please.
The defender Jeffrey Bruma. Could he be among those youth products to break out this season?
• Youth movement?
If it's ever going to happen at Chelsea, you would think it would be now.
Several established members of this team have moved on. Replacements, at least at this juncture, are not in the picture. So, is it time for this well-funded, but ultimately shunned - with regard to first-team opportunities - youth system to breed some regulars? This preseason should go a long, long way to answering that question.
There are numerous prospects to love in this set-up. Then again, we've been saying that for several years now. Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork and Patrick Van Aanholt all enjoyed fruitful loan spells a season ago. Franco Di Santo most surely matured, if not improved, during a roller-coaster loan at Blackburn. Bruma and Hutchinson, along with Van Aanholt before his late loan, proved competent at the Premier League level. Gael Kakuta and Fabio Borini - though they will not feature Saturday - certainly appeared the goods in their limited appearances for the first team. Add Conor Clifford and Josh McEachran and we're seemingly loaded with young talent.
Next is sustaining that feeling amongst supporters with consistent performances. That starts at Palace on Saturday. We all will be eyeing those young'ns fortunate enough to feature.
• A diamond, or a trio?
Tactics. Will Carlo return to the 4-Diamond-2? Or has the trusted 4-3-3 won out for good? Before Yossi was ruled out, I was half-expecting to see the Israeli at the tip of a 4-4-2. Not so much now.
Regardless, it will be intriguing to see what Carlo starts with and how he may change the look of the side as the match progresses. Adaptability, we must have it if we are to repeat as English champions - and if we plan on hoisting a European Cup.
Enough talk. Let's play. KTBFFH