Football fans considering hiring boxes at Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea next season may be getting increasingly excited about the Blues' prospects as the new campaign approaches.
The pre-season preparations continued with a 1-0 win over old foes Liverpool in Pasadena, California, with the only goal being scored by Gary Cahill. Chelsea managed to overcome the Merseysiders despite the sending off of Cesc Fabregas for a late challenge on Ragnar Klavan, for which the Spaniard later visited the Liverpool dressing room to apologise.
Discussing the result, new boss Antonio Conte told Chelsea TV: "It was a hard match, but this game was important because we take confidence.
"I saw a lot of positive things about the defensive situation but we must improve when we have the ball because I love to play the ball, but we are improving.
"We must continue to work. Today we win. We showed a good attitude even when we went down to ten men."
Victory in a pre-season friendly may have no bearing on where the prizes will be handed out in the nine months ahead, but there is no doubt that Chelsea fans have plenty to be excited about just now. Past encounters with Liverpool have included tightly-fought Champions League semi-finals, but with both sides out of Europe, potential signings have been assessing the comparative potential of the sides. This has seen Liverpool struggle in the transfer market so far this summer, bar another raid on Southampton, this time for Saido Mane.
By contrast, Chelsea fans have already seen the side sign midfielder N'Golo Kante from champions Leicester and have just beaten Everton to the signature of Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. Fresh from his stint as Italy manager in Euro 2016, Conte clearly has big plans for the side. They may have finished tenth last year, but the bulk of the 2015 Premiership-winning side is still there and with Kante, Koulibaly and further possible signings, the season may provide a great opportunity.
Indeed, a lack of European football could prove a blessing to the Blues. Leicester are unlikely to repeat last season's surprise triumph - particularly if Riyadh Mahrez follows Kante out of the exit door - and apart from the sheer improbability of a side largely made up of journeymen defying the odds in the first place, the fact is the Champions League could prove a major distraction. It is one Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City will all have, while Jose Mourinho's big-spending Manchester United will have the slog of the Europa League to contend with.
Leicester benefitted from having few other distractions last year, least of all long continental trips, while Liverpool would have done likewise in 2013-14 but for Steven Gerrard's infamous slip that helped the Blues win at Anfield.
Of course, there is plenty of time left for more signings, and the title race could be the most exciting in many years. With Conte, a three-time Serie A coach of the year, joining the likes of Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pocchetino in a who's who of the world's top coaches, the season ahead will have some big stories.
Chelsea kick off their Premier League campaign on Monday August 15th with a cracking London derby at home to West Ham United. It could be the start of a great season at Stamford Bridge.
By Sam Coates