The Opposition: Chelsea

The Gameplan
In search of an Abramovich "Identity" for the team, New coach Carlo Ancelotti has opted for his favoured diamond formation in midfield. The man at the tip of it, Frank Lampard, is frankly (pardon the pun) wasted here as he can get forward without the need to be in such an early advanced position. It means he's missing from some crucial set-up play.

The width is supposed to come from the full-backs. Scolari tried this last year and the tactic was found out within weeks. Ancelotti had better have Plan B and C ready otherwise Chelsea could be trailing in the table within weeks of the season starting.

Defence and attack are as potent as any in Europe, it's the untested midfield formation that will determine Chelsea's season.

Strengths
Up front we have Didier Drogba, probably the most feared striker in the Premier League. He can be unplayable at his best. Nicolas Anelka supports him well and if the two the ground running, Chelsea will bag a hatful.

Petr Cech is the best goalkeeper in the league but had an indifferent last campaign. Defence depends on John Terry. An injury-free season will enable Chelsea to have a serious tilt at the major prizes and that includes the World Cup with England next year.

Weaknesses
We have not sold any key players but Deco and Ricardo Carvalho do want away. Only Carvalho is a certain starter of the two, so if he is not fully concentrated Chelsea could be undone.

The diamond formation relies on width from the full-backs. Peg them back and Chelsea will struggle in giving the ball to the front two.

Injuries/Suspensions
Michael Ballack was the only pre-season injury worry, but he's fine now.

I'm sorry to say for Hull, but Chelsea have a full top-quality squad to choose from.

Player by Player
Cech - Terrific shot-stopper but still prone to errors on deep crosses. Best in the league but can still improve.

Bosingwa - talented right back who needs to concentrate more when attacking. Can be wrong-footed by a speed merchant .
Ashley Cole - has all the qualities of the modern football - fast agile and tactically sound. Gets into advanced positions but does not score enough to reflect his abilities.
Mikel - tall holding midfielder can link defence and attack with one quick ball. Has a tendency to jump in to rash tackles which has earned him a reputation for recklessness. A liability in the making.
Malouda - has come on leaps and bounds. Not as fast as one would hope from a winger but works the left flank effectively and gives genuine balance to the side. Scores excellent goals too.
Ballack - Runs and runs and breaks up opposition moves with ease. Very underrated by the Chelsea fans but not by me. His physical presence brings strength to the side too and he scores goal - a rare talent.
Lampard - might struggle this season to net 20 goals - despite his advance role from midfield. He will be someone all opposition defences will be looking out for. That should allow the full-backs to have greater impact. That's the theory, let's see it in action.

Drogba - Love him or hate him, you can't ignore the giant Ivory Coast striker. He can score from the most seemingly impossible position. When he's on form, Chelsea have a chance to win any match.
Anelka - Game by game, this man is impressing. Whether he likes playing a second striker role is something that will be determined by Chelsea’s results. If we are winning, he's happy, short of that and he could revert to "Le sulk" mode. I think he's matured as a person and player from his early days and could prove pivotal if Chelsea are to win titles.

Paul Lagan is editor of Chelsea Mad

Click here to read Paul's season preview