Jose Mourinho will take charge of Chelsea for the first time in almost six years on Sunday in a road match against newly promoted Hull City. With the acrimonious nature of his exit in 2007 seemingly forgotten, Mourinho is back at the helm and with plenty of expectations that he can repeat his immediate success of his first spell and lead the Blues to the title.
In contrast to his first time round, though, there has been no lavish outlay to bring in some of the world’s top talent. Instead, the club’s focus has been on youth, with Mourinho keen to try and contradict the narrative that he is only interested in short-term success. Still, significant funds have been spent to secure German attacker Andre Schurrle, who had been pursued long before Mourinho’s arrival, while 20-year-old Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel has also arrived.
“I look to improve my players, and obviously give a contribution to my club for them to be better and better, not thinking in just a selfish way, because I never do that, but thinking long term,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “To give the club good conditions, not just for tomorrow, but especially with the kind of squad profile we have, for the long term.
“It's a squad I like, I'm not lying when I say that, and I'm not lying when I say that I'm very much enjoying working with these young people, some of whom it's their first time in the Premier League,” he added. “I'm enjoying this process and formation of my team, with a different profile to the team I had in my previous years.”
Schurrle may well be given his debut from the start with Juan Mata set to face a late fitness test on a knee injury. Victor Moses is also a doubt after playing for Nigeria in midweek in South Africa.
The match also marks a return to England’s top flight for Steve Bruce, after the former Sunderland boss led Hull back to the promised land in his first season in charge. And, following a disappointing spell in charge of Sunderland, Bruce will have extra determination to defy the odds and lead Hull to safety.
Bruce has been busy in the transfer market, bringing in Premier League experience with Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Danny Graham, Maynor Figueroa and Curtis Davies. Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor and French-Ivorian striker Yannick Sagbo have also joined. All are in contention to make their debuts against Chelsea.
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Lampard
Hazard, Oscar, Hazard
Hull City (probable)
D: Elmohamady, Davies, Chester, Figueroa
M: Meyler, Huddlestone, Livermore, Brady
F: Sagbo, Graham
Predictio: The signings of Huddlestone and Livermore this week gives Hull a much-needed injection of quality in the center of midfield. However, it still looks set to be a long season for Bruce’s side, starting with what could be a rude awakening to Premier League life at Stamford Bridge. It remains to be seen how Mourinho will adapt to a young side that was largely put together to play a possession-based game rather than the physical counter-attacking style the Portuguese coach has previously favored. Still, it should be a fairly comfortable start to the season.
Chelsea 3-1 Hull
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter will kick-off at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.