Stoke City V Chelsea, 12:30 GMT - Sunday, 14 August
Andre Villas-Boas' first official match in charge of Chelsea will be at the Britannia Stadium where they take on last season's FA Cup runners-up, Stoke City.
As far as Chelsea are concerned, the focus will primarily be on Villas-Boas. Everything from his first team selection to his the style of play will be scrutinized. Over the season, his success will largely depend on how he gets the best out of Fernando Torres, how Didier Drogba will be used, and most importantly, how many opportunities his midfield can create. Chelsea's three signings of the season - Thibaut Courtois, Oriol Romeu and Romelu Lukaku - are more of signings for the future. Their real need is a creative figure in midfield and their pursuit of Luka Modric continues to go on, with Tottenham having already rejected two bids for the player. That signing could prove to be the difference for Chelsea, especially as they looked toothless for major portions of last season when the supply for the forward line was limited. However, Villas-Boas' Porto team was known for their fluid attacking play, and Chelsea did show signs of adapting the same in pre-season. This first game will provide some of the answers.
Stoke are likely to forward a stern opening test for Villas-Boas though. Despite a 13th place finish last season, which owed a lot to their run in the FA Cup, they've been strong at home and manager Tony Pulis has slowly, but steadily, molded the team into a competitive side. They're expected to finish in the top half this season, and are likely to provide some trouble for Chelsea.
History is behind Chelsea though. They're strong openers traditionally and have won their last nine opening day fixtures. With a 100% record in preseason, confidence should be high amongst the Blues. However, Stoke could puncture a lot with a result today. It's sure to be an intriguing match.
Stoke will be without new signing Matthew Upson but fellow new-comer Jonathan Woodgate will play a part. However, long-throw specialist Rory Delap is doubtful with a hamstring injury and the same goes for Matthew Etherington although Ricardo Fuller, Mamady Sidibe and Danny Higginbotham are sidelined.
Fernando Torres has overcome a mild concussion, sustained during International duty, and he should play a part, though it is unclear whether Villas-Boas will start with him, Drogba or both. Daniel Sturridge will be out through suspension though, as well as David Luiz who is injured.
Stoke does not have a favorable home record against Chelsea. They haven't defeated the Blues in their last seven attempts at home. In fact, their only point against Chelsea came in the 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium last season - a game which had huge repercussions in the title battle.
Stoke are expected to hit the highs this season, but Andre Villas-Boas' first official game in charge of Chelsea will have huge implications. The Blues will be looking to send out a statement to their heavy-spending title rivals in Manchester, and expect a hard fought win for the Blues.
Stoke 1-2 Chelsea