Gary Cahill revealed Chelsea's players had been made acutely aware of the importance of a Barclays Premier League title challenge this season after helping fire them to the top of the table.
Blues came from behind to beat Reading 4-2 on Wednesday, making it six points from six and moving them to the summit for the first time in 21 months.
Despite completing the greatest season in their history last term by being crowned European champions for the first time and winning the FA Cup, Chelsea finished a lowly sixth in the Premier League, 25 points adrift of Manchester City and Manchester United.
Manager Roberto Di Matteo has been charged with slashing that deficit and pushing the Manchester duo all the way this season. Cahill said: "The manager stressed beforehand that we haven't been top of the league for a long time and, although it's early, it's nice to be sitting there."
He added: "It is something we needed to address this season and it has been drilled into us. It's important that we challenge this year and we have made a good start."
Chelsea's astonishing Champions League run last season may have hurt their Premier League ambitions but their triumph ultimately paved the way for them to steal a march on their rivals. The Reading match was brought forward from next weekend due to the Blues' involvement in the UEFA Super Cup, meaning they were always set to go top barring a shock defeat.
Yet, they almost conspired to produce just that against the npower Championship winners, who led 2-1 until the 69th minute. The luck Chelsea seemed to enjoy at all the right times last season came to their rescue again as Cahill equalised with a long-range shot Adam Federici embarrassingly palmed into his own net.
Fernando Torres then completed the comeback with a goal that looked like it should have been ruled out for offside before Eden Hazard helped himself to a second assist of the night in stoppage-time.
Cahill admitted Torres' goal was "maybe" lucky but preferred to focus on the "character" shown by Chelsea and the goalscoring form of their £50million striker.
Didier Drogba's departure has left the Spain star with no more excuses for failing to succeed at Stamford Bridge and Cahill said: "Maybe he will relish being the main man this season. He has done that at the start of the season and has been great for us. It is good to see him score so early in the season."