London: History is smiling on Chelsea as Jose Mourinho's men prepare to begin their title defence at home against Swansea City on Saturday.
In 23 EPL seasons, the previous campaign's champs have never lost their first game — winning 20 and drawing three — and Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 16 curtain-raisers.
Chelsea, who lost Sunday's Community Shield to Arsenal, have also never been beaten by Swansea in EPL, winning all four encounters at home and claiming a 5-0 triumph when these sides last met in January.
Asked whether that thumping — which came after a 2-4 setback at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season — would have any bearing on this game, Swansea boss Garry Monk said: "No, we played at home. Down there we were excellent for 45 minutes and, if we can produce 90 minutes like that, it will be great.
It's a fresh start: we want to improve the good things we did last year. It doesn't come any tougher — the champs, who set the standard and kept their team together. It's a challenge to relish."
Aside from the departures of Petr Cech, Filipe Luis and Didier Drogba, Chelsea have managed to keep their title-winning squad together during the close-season, while also signing 'keeper Asmir Begovic and recruiting striker Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco. And Falcao is well aware of the dangers posed by teams such as Swansea.
"It's a very, very competitive league where each team gives absolutely everything they've got in every game they play," he told the Blues' official website. "It demands 100 per cent of your ability and focus because it is very competitive, physical and tactical."