The Blues will be hoping to make it two successive victories when Reading visit Stamford Bridge later tonight, our first home game since being crowned European champions, and John Terry knows from past experience the importance of getting off to a good start if we are to stand any chance of recapturing the Barclays Premier League title.
An impressive result away at Wigan Athletic on Sunday ensured a winning start to the new campaign, and the skipper, in line to make his 550th appearance for the club tonight, was delighted with the way we successfully navigated what has, in the past, been a difficult fixture.
‘I thought it was a great win. Usually we go up there around late December time, or it’s a night game in the pouring rain and the pitch has gone,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘The key factor was that the pitch was in mint condition. We couldn’t have asked for a better start with the two early goals, the first one from Iva [Branislav Ivanovic], and then the second one Eden [Hazard] does well to win the penalty and Lamps [Frank Lampard] steps up to more or less kill the game.
‘You want to keep it tight then because if you let them back in, at 2-1 in front of their own fans, as they showed when we played them last season, they’re capable of pulling it back.’
The opening set of fixtures produced some surprising results, with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all losing, and Arsenal managing only a home draw.
Understandably, Terry is wary of reading too much into the first weekend, although he acknowledged that newly-promoted teams, such as tonight’s opponents, are more than capable of making life difficult for those sides expected to be challenging at the top of the table.
‘It was an interesting one, but I don’t think you can take too much from the first few weeks,’ says Terry, now in his ninth full season as Chelsea captain. ‘Looking at the Manchester City game, people will probably have expected them to turn Southampton over easily, but sometimes these teams come up and show a bit of something that surprises teams.
‘We saw that with Southampton and, in a way, it’s a good thing because it ensures we have our backs up and we’re ready for it.
‘We’re certainly not underestimating Reading. Being at home, we obviously want to come away with three points, but we realise it will be tough. Whether they come and play on the counter-attack, which they look to do quite a bit, or stay solid throughout, we’ll be ready for both approaches.
‘They will probably have looked at this game and thought if they can get a point they’ll be delighted. In the past, teams have come and sat back and made it difficult for us, but the new boys [Hazard and Oscar] looked sharp at the weekend and hopefully they can give us that new dimension.’
Starting the season strongly, as we know only too well, can often have a significant bearing on the destination of the Premier League trophy when the season reaches its climax.
The foundations for our back-to-back triumphs of 2005 and 2006, as well as our 2010 success, were laid early on in those respective seasons when we flew out of the blocks, making life very difficult for those sides in pursuit.
Last season we paid the price for a mixed set of results over the course of the first couple of months, and Terry admits that we can’t allow that to happen again, particularly given the levels of consistency shown by both Manchester City and Manchester United in recent times.
‘You definitely don’t want to fall behind, which is what happened last season,’ he explains. ‘Once you’ve fallen six or seven points behind, you can’t see the likes of Man City losing very often, and the same goes for United and Arsenal.
‘You look at the strength-in-depth of squads such as ours and the two Manchester clubs, we probably have the three biggest squads, and that could be a key factor.
‘Every year there’s always a surprise package, like Newcastle were last season, so it’s a tough start, but it would be nice to get nine points on the board before we play in Monaco.
‘With two home games in the space of four days, it’s so important we pick up maximum points.’