It is an alarming prospect for Premier League defenders; Didier Drogba was not fit as he plundered his way to the golden boot last season, scoring 29 times in 32 games – this season he will be.
The backlines of West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea's first opponents on Saturday evening, and Wigan, their second a week later, could prove to be the lucky ones as the Ivorian estimates it will take him a couple of games to recover his match fitness and then he will be playing without pain for the first time in six years.
Drogba, a formidable presence last season, recently underwent an operation to cure once and for all a hernia problem that has repeatedly troubled him ever since he first joined Chelsea in 2004. He played for half an hour of Sunday's Community Shield defeat by Manchester United to add to 45 minutes in a friendly against Hamburg and needs more game time – he will not feature in Ivory Coast's friendly with Italy at Upton Park tonight.
"It's difficult because it's only a week ago I had the surgery," said Drogba. "So I am far from being fit. It was a hernia. I first had it six years ago. For the last six years I have been struggling with it. I couldn't really work, it was difficult for me to play some games. I also had to miss training. Now I am happy because it has gone and I am more free. No more tensions in the abductors. It is really good for me. I am happy that I had [the operation]."
Playing pain-free for 30 minutes on Sunday proved something of a novel experience for the 32-year-old, certainly since he moved from France. "It was a strange feeling because sometimes last year I needed tablets to play," he said. "Now I am not even asking. I learnt how to play with [the injury]. I had to adapt my game to it, so now maybe I will have to change my game again. But I will feel more free in my movement."
Last season was comfortably his most rewarding for the club – his previous best return was 20 goals in 2006-07 – and the Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, will be looking for him to provide the finishing touch to the club's quest to secure back-to-back titles.
Defeat at Wembley completed a poor pre-season for the London club. Preparations have been hampered by the belated return to training of the 11 players who were, with varying degrees of embarrassment, at the World Cup finals in South Africa, and the return from long-term injury of Michael Essien. Add in Petr Cech's absence and it makes for a trying build-up.
It will take, according to Drogba, a couple of matches to get up to speed, but Chelsea have been favoured by the fixture list. West Brom and Wigan are followed by games against Stoke, West Ham and Blackpool. Their first obvious test comes with a trip to Manchester City at the end of next month. "We are not ready but we are working hard," he said. "We have a lot of players who have only been in training for a week, 10 days. We need two or three weeks to be fully fit."
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