John Terry believes Daniel Sturridge would have been the first name on the Chelsea team sheet for the start of the season if he did not have to serve a three-match ban.
Competition for places in attack is set to be fierce at Stamford Bridge this season, with Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres all at Andre Villas-Boas' disposal and Romelu Lukaku set to join from Anderlecht.
But it is Sturridge who has outshone his rivals with a series of impressive performances in pre-season, having returned from a successful loan spell at Bolton during the second half of last term.
The 21-year-old has set his sights on playing regularly for the Blues and pushed his claims for a starting spot with a double strike in Saturday's 3-1 friendly victory over Rangers.
However, he will have to be patient for a Premier League opportunity as a sending-off in the final game of last season with Bolton landed him a suspension.
Chelsea captain Terry, speaking about the match against Rangers, said: "Rangers started a little bit brighter than us and we were obviously disappointed to concede a goal.
"But the way we came back into it was good, Studge [Sturridge] especially. He has been brilliant all pre-season.
"He went away last season on loan and gained from the experience of playing week in, week out. He has grown into how good he believes he can be and everyone is seeing that now.
"It is just unfortunate he has his three-game ban, otherwise I am sure he would have been the first name down on the team sheet because he has been brilliant so far."
Terry is confident about Chelsea's chances going into the new season after a productive tour of Asia during pre-season.
"The Asia tour was a two-week period which is quite long and it is good to be back home with our families." Terry told Chelsea TV.
"The season is getting close. Fitness-wise we are looking good and playing well also. Hopefully this momentum can continue into the first game against Stoke."
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