VAN GINKEL: HIGH EXPECTATIONS
For Marco van Ginkel, more than most, Sunday's opening game against Hull City represents the start of a new chapter, and the young Dutchman is looking forward to getting back to playing competitive football once more.
Having completed his transfer from hometown club Vitesse Arnhem early in July, the 20-year-old barely had time to settle before embarking on the club's pre-season tour of Asia, which was followed soon after by a four-game trip to the US.
The midfielder, however, who represented his country in their 1-1 midweek draw against Portugal, has earned many plaudits for his performances in a Chelsea shirt thus far, with his combative tackling and composure when in possession catching the eye.
'I'm looking forward to the first game,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'Pre-season is always important as you are working towards the first game and you want to show people what you can do. I'm hoping to be involved against Hull City and it will be nice for me to go to Stamford Bridge.
'At the beginning, if you are a new, young player, you want to be involved in big games. I think the first game I featured in I played quite well, and since then I've actually started quite a few matches, so that's been very nice and it's good for my confidence.
'I enjoy the defensive side of the game but I also like to try to get forward and score goals as well, I like to help out in both areas.'
Van Ginkel, who joined Vitesse at the age of seven before progressing through the ranks, appears to have settled quickly since moving to Stamford Bridge, no doubt helped by the number of players in the squad of a similar age, and he admits the transition has been relatively smooth.
'I've always watched a lot of English football, it's a higher level than in Holland and a lot of people over there follow the Premier League,' he says. 'Also it helps that there are a lot of Dutch players playing in this country.
'Since I joined the club we've spent a lot of the time in training camps, but I think London is a very nice city, it's very big with lots to do, although the traffic is really bad. I haven't found a house yet so I still need to do that, it will help me settle more, but so far I'm enjoying it.'
Much, if not all, of the pre-match build-up will be dominated by the return of Jose Mourinho, as the Portuguese prepares to take charge of the Blues in a competitive fixture for the first time since 2007.
Having worked under the man who led us to back-to-back Premier League titles for over a month now, Van Ginkel is well placed to comment on his new manager's qualities, and he has certainly been impressed.
'It's the first game so the supporters will expect a lot, especially with the coach coming back,' he explains. 'Everybody is very excited about it and we want to get off to a good start.
'It's been very good; he's a top coach tactically and mentally. In the five weeks I've been working under him I've already learnt a lot, that's why he's been such a successful manager over the years.'
Due to our participation in the UEFA Super Cup at the end of the month, our first two games of the 2013/14 season will be played at home, with Sunday's clash against Steve Bruce's newly-promoted side preceding Wednesday's game against Aston Villa, before we make the trip to take on Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Victory in the two matches at Stamford Bridge would, of course, set us up nicely for the game against David Moyes's side on Bank Holiday Monday, but Van Ginkel stressed the importance of taking one game at a time.
'It's really important to win both home games and start the season well,' he says. 'If we win the first couple of games, which are both at home, it puts us in a very good position going into a big game away at Manchester United, but for now our focus is only on putting in a good performance against Hull.'