Wigan v Chelsea - Sunday 1.30pm
ROBERTO Di Matteo is refusing to set his sights – publicly at least - any higher than simply improving on last season's disappointing sixth place in the Premier League.
The Blues kick off their campaign at Wigan Athletic on Sunday and the Italian boss insists Man City are favourites to retain the title.
“I think our aspiration is to do better than last season in the Premier League,” Di Matteo said.
“I personally think Man City are still the favourites because they haven't lost any key players.
“Expectations at Chelsea have always been very high. Winning the Champions League may have added a little bit of pressure to it, but it was always very high anyway and it's an ambitious club. We know we have to try and win trophies and be successful.
“I think last year it was very balanced at the top. At the end, the two Manchester clubs ran away, but I think again there's probably going to be four teams or so that will fight for the title.
“We have to try and catch up with the Manchester teams. The gap last season was big. We have to try, for sure. It's not that we're not going to try. We have to challenge ourselves and I wouldn't say there's no expectation.”
Chelsea have almost clean bill of health for the weekend, with only £7m Werder Bremen signing Marko Marin currently sidelined through injury. Even Oscar is training at Cobham now, although it would be a surprise to see the Brazilian feature so soon after his involvement in the Olympics.
“He's only been in the building a day and a half, so we'll see,” Chelsea's boss said. “I still have to think about it for Sunday, but there'll be plenty of time to play.
Juan Mata is also due a rest, but that may not come until there is an international break.
“He's had a long summer and I will factor in a break for him at some point because it's important,” Di Matteo said. “He won't be able to just go through the whole year like this. We'll have to plan the break intelligently.”
Chelsea are in good shape going into their first game, according to the boss, although he admits he still needs time to work with the clutch of new arrivals.
“It's about time that we start now,” he said. “Pre-season is always a long period and you always look forward to the first game of the season – all the players are looking forward to it now we are finally starting.
“But pre-season has been a little bit disrupted by the Euro Championships and by the Olympics, by players coming back at different stages and we haven't had that much time to work with the whole team, so it's going to take a bit of time.”
As for Sunday's opponents, Di Matteo said: “Last season at the end, they were very strong. The last 12 games, they were very very good.
“We played them at home and it was a difficult game for us, so we have to expect a very difficult game on Sunday. They are playing at home as well, so it won't be easy for sure.”