The Premier League Champions get their title defence underway by hosting Sean Dyche’s Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday
Chelsea and Burnley had what they would consider excellent seasons in the previous campaign. Chelsea won back the title from Leicester City while Sean Dyche’s men, thanks to a fantastic home record, managed to stay up in the English top flight while finishing a comfortable 16th.
Both managers have added a number of new personnel to their squad over the summer, with both Antonio Conte and Sean Dyche welcoming 4 new players to the team. However, while the Blues have spent well over a £100 million, Burnley have reportedly spent just under £10 million.
Sean Dyche’s men have had a promising pre-season. They played a total of 6 games, won 4 and drew 2. The Blues, on the other hand, had a rather disappointing one. They played a total of 5 games, winning 2 and drawing three, including the defeat at the hands of cross town rivals Arsenal in the Community Shield last week.
Both sides have lost important players this summer as well. Michael Keane and Andre Gray have both left Turf Moor while Nemanja Matic left Chelsea for Manchester United, John Terry for Aston Villa and Diego Costa’s departure is but a mere formality.
However, Chelsea are the more injury-stricken side and haven’t quite been their dominant selves throughout pre-season. They have a number of new players still likely adjusting to Conte’s philosophy and it should be interesting to see how they cope without the talismanic Eden Hazard.
Going into this tie, Antonio Conte is expected to be without the services of Eden Hazard and summer signing Tiemoue Bakayoko, both of whom are nursing injuries. Victor Moses is suspended after he picked up a red card in Chelsea 2-1 loss to Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup final.
No change is expected to their usual 3-4-3 formation, with Thibaut Courtois in goal. Victor Moses’ absence will most likely result in Cesar Azpilicueta moving to right wingback, with either Andreas Christensen or Antonio Rudiger joining Gary Cahill and David Luiz as a part of the back three.
Cesc Fabregas and N’golo Kante have virtually no competition for the central midfield positions given Bakayoko’s injury and the departure of Nemanja Matic. Them alongside Marcos Alonso at left wingback, are almost sure to retain their places in the starting XI.
Pedro, who got sent off in the Community Shield loss to Arsenal, will not be serving a suspension and therefore, is expected to feature on the left wing in the absence of Eden Hazard despite a face injury, with Willian taking his place on the right wing.
Michy Batshuayi will likely lead the line ahead of Alvaro Morata, given that the Spaniard has barely featured in pre-season since his big money move and only played 15 minutes in the Community Shield. He is, however, expected to come off the bench in the latter stages of the game.
Predicted Starting XI(3-4-3): Thibaut Courtois; Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Gary Cahill; Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, N’golo Kante, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Michy Batshuayi, Pedro
Sean Dyche doesn’t particularly have any major injuries to worry about going into this match, besides Dean Marney, who has been out since January with an injury to his knee. Summer signings Phil Bardsley, Jack Cork, Charlie Taylor and Jonathan Walters are all available for selection.
No change is expected from their usual 4-4-2 formation which kept them up last season. Tom Heaton will retain his place in goal, while Matt Lowton, Ben Mee and Stephen Ward will be joined by James Tarkowski in defence. Phil Bardsley may feature later on in the game from the bench.
Chelsea academy product Jack Cork will likely start in midfield against his former side. He will likely be joined by Jeff Hendrick in the center of the park, with Scott Arfield and Robbie Brady on the right and left flanks respectively.
Last season’s top scorer Sam Vokes will likely be joined by Ashley Barnes up front. Summer signing Jonathan Walters is also an option for the role as a secondary striker.
Predicted Starting XI(4-4-2): Tom Heaton; Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward; Scott Arfield, Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady; Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes
- Burnley have lost 18 of their previous 19 Premier League matches played away from home.
- Chelsea have suffered only 2 losses at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, since Antonio Conte took charge.
- Burnley have never won an opening day Premier League fixture in 3 attempts.
- Chelsea haven’t lost their previous 18 opening day Premier League fixtures, since losing to Coventry City in 1998.
- Chelsea haven’t lost to Burnley in their last 7 meetings across all competitions.
Chelsea 3-0 Burnley
Many of the Chelsea players were present during that disastrous 2015/16 season and will be desperate to avoid a repeat of that title defence. Though they will be without the likes of Hazard, Bakayoko and Moses, the sheer quality present in the Blues’ ranks should be too much for Burnley to overcome.
However, games aren’t won on paper and Burnley will surely looking to get an upset. Everyone wants the scalp of the Premier League Champions and Chelsea would do well to not underestimate Sean Dyche’s men.
Despite their injury troubles, the Blues should have no trouble inflicting a heavy defeat on this Burnley team. Antonio Conte will settle for nothing less and a dominating victory will be key to building confidence and momentum in the early stages of the season.