We're approaching 24 hours remaining until the 2014/15 season gets underway for Chelsea, and the difference 12 months has made in the mood and expectations of the fanbase is absolutely unbelievable. A year ago at this time, most Chelsea supporters were cautiously optimistic, expecting a far better campaign from the Blues than the disastrous 2012/13 season which saw them fall out of both the title race and Champions League in December.
Last season, skepticism about the squad was more than acceptable, as there were still obvious questions about the construction of the squad. Between the January window and this summer, though, Jose Mourinho and the board have done a remarkable job of balancing an already talented squad, turning it into a unit that most expect to become one of the elite sides in Europe.
That quest starts Monday evening against newly-promoted Burnley, where we'll likely have our first real look at how Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas help with our inability to break down the less talented squads we'll face. Burnley are somewhat unlikely to simply pack the box and play for a draw in their first home match since returning to the Premier League, though they're unlikely to be too adventurous going forward either.
All told, this will be the 46th meeting between the Blues and the Clarets, with Chelsea having won 22, drawn eight, and lost 15 of the previous encounters. The only two Premier League encounters between the sides both resulted in Chelsea wins, with the Blues managing 3-0 and 2-1 victories during the 2009/10 season.
Opponent: Burnley FC, Second in the Championship last season to earn promotion
Date/time: Monday, August 18, 2014 at 20:00 local time (convert for yourself here)
Venue: Turf Moor, Burnley, England. Capacity 22,546.
Forecast: Warm with light rain expected.
Chelsea squad news: The Blues are relatively healthy at the moment, with the only current injury question being Didier Drogba. The Ivorian is expected to take a late fitness test, but it wouldn't shock me at all to see the Blues play it safe and simply use Fernando Torres on the bench.
There are also questions about the fitness of several Chelsea players who participated in the World Cup. While those that went out after the group stage should be fully fit, the four that made it until the final days of the competitionprobably aren't ready for anything but bench roles at this point. Somewhere in the middle are the Belgians and John Obi Mikel, who met up with squad somewhere in the middle.
Burnley squad news: Like Chelsea, Burnley is relatively healthy at the start of the new campaign. Both Sam Vokes and Cameron Dummigan are expected to miss out, but the remainder of the squad should all be available for selection.
Television and streaming: In the UK, Sky Spots 1 HD and SkyGo have the game. NBCSN and NBC Live Extra will carry it in the US. In India, you can catch it on Star Sports 4. Everyone else can find their listings here.