And we're back!
At times, the break from the end of last season to the start of this season seemed to last forever, especially thanks to Chelsea's more subdued than usual machinations in the transfer market. Though we did get some hilarious drama around Mohamed Salah, and there's still a chance that Kevin De Bruyne comes back to England to throw a bag of potato chips (i.e. crisps) and a bottle of Coca-Cola in Mourinho's face while lollygagging back on defense.
Yet, the season also seems to have arrived rather too quickly. Preseason was done in the blink of an eye, an overload of games, training, and travel flashing by faster than a speeding Cuadrado on the path to nowhere. The Premier League kicking off earlier than normal this year thanks to the European Championships next summer hasn't helped, but we certainly didn't really seem overly concerned with all that when setting our preseason schedule.
But, what's done is done. Subpar results, subpar play, fake matches, training exercises, all that goes out the window. It's time to start the real thing. And, unlike friendlies, that's something we're very good at.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 8, 2015; 17:30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Michael Oliver — Oliver is the rising star of English refereeing, insofar as anyone can be a rising star at refereeing. The young man has refereed 14 Chelsea matches previously; we've won 11 and lost just 1. Last time we saw him was against Arsenal at the end of last season, a 0-0 draw at the Emirates.
Forecast: Warm and pleasant, like facing a Costa-less Chelsea.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBC, NBC Universo (USA); Star Sports 4 / HD 4 (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Universo NOW, Deportes Telemundo En Vivo Extra (USA); Star Sports (India)
Chelsea team news: The only question mark is a big one. Will Diego Costa play? Nobody knows. Not even the manager. And even if he did, he wouldn't tell. If Costa's hamstrings are bothering him again, the onus falls on either Loïc Rémy or Falcao. One's a more proven quantity, the other seems to have just edged it in preseason — though none of our strikers were at all impressive or in-form during the warm-up matches. So hopefully Diego's ready to go.
The rest of the lineup picks itself. Courtois in goal. The standard four of Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, and Ivanovic across the back. Matic and Fabregas anchor the midfield, while the attacking trio of Hazard, Oscar, and Willian takes care of business. Oscar's spot is perhaps the most under question, but there's little doubt in my mind that we'll be seeing the same lineup that got us the title last season begin the title defense this season.
Swansea City team news: The Swans come into town with zero injuries and several summer reinforcements — only one of whom is expected start, former Marseille man André Ayew. For more on Swansea, be sure to read Rob's ever-excellent opposition report.
Unlike Chelsea, Swansea have had an excellent preseason (though their actual results weren't anything to write home about either) and made headlines with their innovative, high-tech methods of preparation involving "Snoozeboxes" and "fartleks" (tee-hee) and GPS tracking and other fancy machines and concepts. Though Snoozeboxes are just sleeping pods and a fartlek is just a borrowed word for interval training. In any case, we'll find out pretty soon if they've gained any advantage from these things.
Previously: Last season, Chelsea feasted on the only Welsh club in the Premier League, winning 4-2 at the Bridge and 5-0 away. Costa scored 5 of the 9 Chelsea goals.