Frank Lampard’s side finished fourth in the Premier League last year – 33 points behind champions Liverpool – and were knocked out of Europe in the last-16 stage by eventual winners Bayern Munich.
Chelsea may be a greater force this term, however, following a summer in which Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva all arrived at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard’s side are currently third in the Premier League – two points behind joint-leaders Tottenham and Liverpool – and top of their Champions League group ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Sevilla.
‘I think Chelsea are genuine contenders,’ said Cole, who won three Premier League titles and two FA Cups during his seven-year spell at Stamford Bridge.
‘I think all the English sides, you can’t discount any of them from going all the way in the Champions League because of the quality and the strength of our league.
‘I don’t feel there is any weaknesses in the Chelsea side at the moment. I feel there aren’t any glaring weaknesses, there are areas to improve on.
‘But if you look at the last two months, certainly since Chilwell, Mendy, and Silva have got into the back four, the clean sheets have started to happen.
‘We look safe and secure from set pieces. So those things have improved dramatically from last season. I think there’s still areas where Chelsea can improve and they will improve.
‘But certainly, I put them down as contenders to win the Champions League and the Premier League this year.’
Despite talking up Chelsea’s chances of winning at least one major trophy this season, Cole says Bayern Munich are ‘rightly the favourites’ to defend their Champions League crown.
As well as winning the Champions League last season, Bayern also lifted a record-extending 30th Bundesliga title. The German club have won seven of their nine league matches so far this term.
‘You look at the other teams, your Man City’s, Liverpool, even United have a rich tradition in is competition. I think English clubs will fare well this year,’ Cole added.
‘I think it’s a good year for us.’
Following their trip to Sevilla, Lampard’s Chelsea return to Premier League action on Saturday against newly-promoted Leeds United.