RAMIRES: TIME TO FOCUS
When it comes to having a significant impact on the big stage, there are few better players to have in your side than Ramires, and with the new season rapidly approaching, the Brazilian midfielder is confident of emulating his impressive performances from last season.
The players, now back in England following a two-week tour of the US, travel to Brighton on Saturday for a pre-season friendly, before we meet Manchester City at Villa Park in the Community Shield a week later, and looking back on the tour, Ramires believes that, results aside, it was a productive trip.
'It was a bit difficult after being on holiday for a long time,' he says. 'It took a while to get back into it, but I tried to do my best and enhance my fitness levels in order to be in the best possible shape as soon as I can.
'The games were a good test; the team did well, we lost the last two games but we worked hard. It's a bit soon to worry too much about performances; this is pre-season so the main focus is on fitness.'
Last season was one that the 24-year-old is unlikely to forget in a hurry. He was an instrumental figure as the Blues secured both the FA Cup and Champions League, scoring crucial goals and providing vital assists along the way, while also walking away with the Players' Player of the Year award at the annual ceremony in May.
Having recently returned to the Brazilian national fold, earning a call-up for their game against Sweden in a fortnight's time, the player himself is looking forward to the coming campaign, although he admits it's important not to dwell on past achievements.
'I will try to repeat my performances of last season, or even better them if possible, but it's not just about me, it's important we improve as a team,' says Ramires. 'It will be a long, hard season, and after everything we achieved last year expectations will understandably be high.
'It will be good to be back playing in England. We are looking forward to seeing our supporters and it will be nice to play as European champions. However, this is a new season, the Champions League is in the past and we need to focus on our new targets.
'I'm very happy to be back in the national squad, it feels like the first time all over again after such a long period out of it. Every time a squad was announced I would be waiting hopefully, and now, when I didn't really expect it, I'm back. I'm delighted to be involved again and I hope to be able to remain there for a long time.'
In terms of the club's aspirations, they remain as high as ever, and with the right approach, as he admits, there is absolutely no reason why the 2012/13 season shouldn't be another one to remember - for all the right reasons.
'I will just try to do my best, and if everything works out there is no reason why we cannot win the big trophies,' he says. 'As long as all the players have the right mentality, the club can only benefit.'