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CHELSEA F.C.

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LAST SEASON AND THE STARTING POINT FOR 2016/17:

Chelsea slumped under the pressure of being reigning champions last season. Jose Mourinho paid the price with his job after the Blues had collected four wins before the turn of the year. The December defeat at the hands of Leicester proved to be the coup de grace. 

Interim manager Guus Hiddink managed to yet again turn the tide at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea weren't exactly flying under Hiddink either, but the Dutch coach managed to steady the ship and their form gradually improved. Eventually Chelsea managed to finish in the top half of the table in 10th place.

Chelsea moved quickly to usher in a new era, as they announced the appointment of former Juventus and Italian national team coach Antonio Conte as early as April. Conte led Juve to three consecutive Serie A titles between 2011-2014, while his Italy team also impressed in the Euros in the summer.

KEY PLAYERS: 

First-choice keeper Thibaut Courtois got injured in September and failed to find his best form all season, but the Belgian shot-stopper still remains an important part of Chelsea's squad.

While Chelsea obviously flattered to deceive in defence last season, club icon and captain John Terry was monumental when the going got tough and was one of the best defenders in the league. In his final season at the club Terry can still have a big part in Conte's plans for this season. The Italian has tended to place his trust in more experienced names in defence.

Terry's central defensive partner Gary Cahill didn't have the best of seasons in 2015/16, as the England defender failed to find a consistent level of performance. At his best Cahill is both a tough tackler and good on the ball, but if Conte can't help him get back to his best he could end up on the bench.

21-year old Kurt Zouma is ready to take the place of either Englishman if their form falters at any point in the season or there are injuries in the squad. The versatile youngster impressed last season and can also play in a holding role in midfield.

Conte has lavished praise on another holding midfielder, as he has said that Nemanja Matic can potentially become one of the best players in both the club and the world. Holding on to him in the transfer window is crucial.

Chelsea's biggest star was also their biggest disappointment last season, as Eden Hazard struggled immensely. The Belgian winger failed to find the back of the net before the end of April, when he finally got the giant monkey off his back against Bournemouth. Despite this, Conte has indicated he trusts Hazard in a leading role and is confident he can coach the best form out of him again.

Chelsea's best player last season was without a doubt Willian. The Brazilian winger isn't afraid of hard work and we expect him to continue performing as well as he did in 2015/16.

If striker Diego Costa decides to remain at the club he will most likely be a fixture in Conte's starting eleven, even if another striker finds his way to Stamford Bridge.

EXPECTATIONS:

In the coming season the fans, Conte or the board will not settle for anything less than a return to the top four and Champions League football. The lack of European football this season and their strong squad should ease their task.

N'Golo Kante will most likely prove a good addition to Chelsea's midfield options, and other recruits that might still follow could help propel Chelsea back towards the top of the Premier League table. 

Chelsea will succeed in returning to the Champions League. Conte's real test begins in 2017/18, when the owners will be expecting progress in the Champions League and trophies. 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

If Conte doesn't make any huge signings before the end of the season, Willian will yet again prove the strongest out of Chelsea's squad.

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