It has been a summer of change at Stamford Bridge with Antonio Conte set to take the reins, and the new era begins in mid-July when the Blues begin their pre-season fixture schedule in Austria.
Chelsea were sat at the very top of English football just over a year ago, but they now find themselves playing catch-up following a miserable 2015/16 campaign that saw them surrender the Premier League title without ever really putting up a fight.
A dismal first few months cost Jose Mourinho his job and caretaker manager Guus Hiddink took charge on a temporary basis, with the Blues expected to make a big-name appointment in the summer. They have done just that by appointing the man that made Juventus the dominant force in Italian football before taking charge of the national team, Antonio Conte.
“I am very excited about the prospect of working at Chelsea Football Club,” Conte told Chelsea's official website. “I am proud to be the coach of the national team of my country and only a role as attractive as manager of Chelsea could follow that.
“I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the club and the day-to-day challenge of competing in the Premier League. Chelsea and English football are watched wherever you go, the fans are passionate and my ambition is to have more success to follow the victories I enjoyed in Italy.”
Conte has put pen-to-paper on a three-year contract with Chelsea and supporters will be desperately hoping he can repeat what he achieved during his time as manager of Juventus.
The 46-year-old took charge of the ‘Old Lady’ in 2011 and was an instant success, guiding the club to three straight Serie A titles, two Italian Super Cups and an appearance in the Champions League Final before making the jump to international management.
“Antonio Conte has a record of consistent success in his career as a manager and as a player,” said Blues chairman Bruce Buck. “We look forward to welcoming him to Stamford Bridge and are confident he will find all he needs to maintain that high standard of achievement.”
Conte has earned further plaudits during Euro 2016, with Italy recording some excellent victories during the tournament, and he will make a quick turnaround because Chelsea’s pre-season schedule gets underway rather early thanks to a pre-season tour of Austria that sees them face Rapid Vienna on July 16 and Wolfsberger on July 20.
The Blues then head off to the United States to continue their preparations as part of the annual International Champions Cup. This competition has become the most high-profile pre-season competitions in world football thanks to its all-star line-up and Chelsea will be facing three of European football’s biggest names during their time on American soil.
The tour could also give Chelsea fans their first glimpse of Michy Batshuayi, who is expected to join the club from Marseille this summer. The highly-rated 22-year-old scored 23 goals in all competitions last season, earning him the attention of the Blues, and according to reports the Premier League club have beaten a host of top European clubs to land his signature. Batshuayi will most likely make his debut during the US tour, which begins at the end of July.
First up for them is a match against Premier League rivals Liverpool in Pasadena, California on the morning of July 28, and they continue their time in the United States with a match against Spanish giants Real Madrid in Ann Arbor, Michigan on July 30. A huge crowd is expected at ‘The Big House’ for that one, with Michigan Stadium boasting a capacity of over 107,000.
Chelsea’s pre-season fixture schedule then wraps up on the morning of August 4 when they make the trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to face AC Milan in a friendly match that will make history. The U.S. Bank Stadium is the new home of the Minnesota Vikings, having only been completed this year, and with the NFL pre-season schedule not getting underway until August, the match between Chelsea and Milan will be the first major event to be held at the venue.
Chelsea’s Pre-Season Fixture Schedule
July 16 at 17:00 BST – Rapid Vienna v Chelsea (Vienna, Austria)
July 20 at 19:00 BST – Wolfsberger v Chelsea (Klagenfurt, Austria)
July 28 at 04:00 BST – Chelsea v Liverpool (Pasadena, California, USA)
July 30 at 20:00 BST – Real Madrid v Chelsea (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)
August 4 at 02:30 BST – Chelsea v AC Milan (Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)