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Aug 20, 2014

Blues answer week one questions

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho could find it difficult to keep Petr Cech after handing Thibaut Courtois his Premier League debut against Burnley.

Chelsea's comfortable 3-1 win at Burnley sees the London club head the Premier League on goal difference after the first round of matches. Sean "Ginger Mourinho" Dyche's battling Clarets side had the temerity to take the lead, but the Blues were soon in the groove, and the margin of victory at a rainswept Turf Moor was a clear indication to the home fans that there is only one Mourinho and his name is Jose.

- Report: Blues 'eager for new Courtois deal'
- Report: Courtois wants Cech at Chelsea
- Report: Mourinho 'really happy' with Fabregas

Going into the game, we'd asked five questions of Chelsea which related to Mourinho, his team selection and whether Chelsea's high-profile signings were the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that depicted Blues captain John Terry lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of the 2014-15 season. At the final whistle, most of those questions had been answered.

Petr Cech or Thibaut Courtois?

The football world held its breath. The Chelsea team sheet versus Burnley had the name Courtois at the top. Mourinho had decided. Truth be told, it came as no surprise. Having completed three successful seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid and established himself as Belgium's No. 1, the 22-year-old Courtois was ready.

It would be harsh to criticise him for not standing taller when Scott Arfield's venomous shot flashed past him into the net for the opening goal, but when Arfield tried his luck again with a fabulous volley that seemed destined for the top corner, with balletic grace and agility, Courtois tipped the ball away.

Throughout the 90 minutes, the young Belgian commanded his penalty area and looked cool and calm under pressure, looking as if it had been his 100th competitive game for Chelsea and not his first. If it felt like the end of an era, maybe it was. Mourinho believes Cech will stay and fight for his place, but perhaps the Blues legend will decide that if he wants a regular game then his future lies elsewhere.

Will Diego Costa replicate his La Liga form in the Premier League?

On Monday night's evidence the answer is an emphatic yes. As with his former Atletico teammate Courtois, Costa looked like he'd been a Chelsea player for years. The Brazil-born Spain international was in the right place at the right time to score on his debut when clinically dispatching a rebound beyond Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton, and, later, he was unfortunate to have been booked for diving when rounding Heaton as he advanced on goal. Replays indicated a penalty might have been a fairer decision, and there's no doubting that Costa would have demanded the ball as he endeavoured to double his tally for the evening from 12 yards.

There was no sign of nerves from Diego Costa in his Premier League debut versus Burnley.
There was no sign of nerves from Diego Costa in his Premier League debut versus Burnley.

What is Mourinho's first-choice back four?

Against Burnley, Mourinho elected to stick with the trusted defensive template of Branislav Ivanovic at right back, Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and his trusted centre-back pairing of captain John Terry and Gary Cahill. New signing, 15.8 million-pound left-back Filipe Luis had to be content with a place on the bench.

Since the arrival of Luis, it had been Ivanovic whose position had been viewed as being under threat in many quarters, with the suggestion being made that Mourinho might play the more mobile Azpilicueta in his natural right berth while retaining Terry and Cahill in the middle. A goal and an assist from the Serbia international served as a timely reminder of his all-round ability -- as far as match-going Blues supporters are concerned, Ivanovic remains indispensable. That being the case, unless Mourinho plans to shuffle his defensive pack on a game-by-game basis, the question remains about his preferred back four and who will make way to accommodate Luis. We will learn more in the coming weeks.

Are Chelsea fully equipped to win the Premier League?

The strength and depth of Chelsea's squad convinced the bookmakers who installed them as preseason favourites that the Blues have what it takes to win the Premier League. Against Burnley, the catalyst for Mourinho's title bid, sublime, string-pulling midfield general Cesc Fabregas had the football world purring. Deft corners, flicks, chips, spin, back-lifts, side-volleys, precision passes, perfect timing and an ability to read the game illustrated Fabregas' talent. Alongside Courtois and Costa, the addition of Fabregas will enable Chelsea to significantly enhance their goal difference and put behind them the woes of last season. A year ago, the Blues might have struggled to redress the balance after going behind to Arfield's "shock" opener for the Clarets. Mourinho's new Chelsea regrouped, upped the ante and blew them away. The Blues have the hallmarks of potential champions.

Mourinho had stated recently that Chelsea's transfer business in respect to players arriving at Stamford Bridge had been concluded. However, media speculation has intensified over the past few days that the Blues have entered the expensive fray to sign Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho. With Nemanja Matic looking imperious in the holding role and John Obi Mikel and Marco van Ginkel capable deputies, it's hard to understand why the Special One would want to add to his selection headaches. Maybe he just wants to create migraines elsewhere.

Can Mourinho survive another season without silverware?

With every passing week, the question is becoming increasingly academic. Mourinho has tweaked his squad to good effect and seemingly has the backing of everyone connected with Chelsea Football Club. As far as winning silverware, the portents look good, but also, perhaps more importantly, there is increasing belief that the Blues' munificent owner Roman Abramovich is satisfied that in Mourinho he has the right man to take the London club forward on a long-term basis.

In the gloriously unpredictable world of Chelsea, it pays to take nothing for granted, but maybe it's just possible the Special One would live to fight another day should this campaign conclude without a trophy.

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