Chelsea kick off their 2017/18 Premier League campaign tomorrow afternoon with a home fixture against Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
The Champions will of course be looking for three points to kick start their title defence in the best possible manner. Antonio Conte’s men will need to bounce back immediately from last Sunday’s disappointing penalty-shootout defeat against Arsenal in the Community Shield however, against a Burnley side who showed impressive resilience under Sean Dyche last season.
Chelsea managed an incredible thirty wins during their title win in Antonio Conte’s debut season including a 3-0 home victory over tomorrow’s opposition. The Clarets were one of the sides to take points off Chelsea last season in a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor, but it is no secret that Burnley struggled on the road. With this game being the first of the 2017/18 campaign, tomorrow is an obvious opportunity for either side to lay down the foundations for what they hope will be an even better season to build on the achievements they both enjoyed last term.
Chelsea go into this game with a number of key players unavailable. Eden Hazard and new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko both remain injured and it is unclear exactly when either will return. Pedro has also been ruled out with injury as Antonio Conte revealed in this afternoon’s press conference that the Spaniard suffered a knock to his ankle in Sunday’s game at Wembley.
Victor Moses is another player the Blues will be without for this following the red card the Nigerian received in last season’s FA Cup final. This will be the only game Moses is suspended for however. Finally, Diego Costa remains away from the squad following his public fallout with Antonio Conte and the club over the summer. Despite this, news regarding his assumed exit to Atletico Madrid remains sparse.
In contrast, Burnley have only have one absentee from their squad for the trip to South West London, with Dean Marney remaining sidelined with a long-term injury.
In his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s game Antonio Conte was quick to praise his squad and the commitment they have shown in preparation for the new Premier League season.
“We’re working very well with the team. The commitment is incredible, even better than last season.”
The Italian refused to be drawn into discussing transfers despite it being clear Chelsea are short of squad depth and simply insisted that the club are working as hard as they can and know the players that Conte himself would like.
On the game itself, Conte says Burnley are a “really good team” who Chelsea must pay “great attention” to. The manager has warned that Chelsea’s Champions status means all other sides will be especially motivated when playing the Blues.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche admits this game is a very tough one for his side to begin the season with, but has reminded everyone that the Clarets will be judged on their season as a whole as opposed to solely on this fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Dyche has acknowledged that his team’s chances are slightly improved by Chelsea’s current injury problems and transfer uncertainties, though says the Blues remain an incredible group of players.
“All I know is they are still a very strong group of players and it will be interesting to see.”
“I think it’s fair to say Chelsea are a powerful team and will probably be right up there again this year.”
Chelsea’s team news means Antonio Rudiger is expected to start for his Premier League debut in place of Victor Moses. It is likely that Cesar Azpilicueta will move out wide to occupy Moses’ right wing-back role with Rudiger taking the Spaniard’s place at right centre-back.
Meanwhile, the absence of both Eden Hazard and Pedro means Chelsea are short in the winger positions of their 3-4-3 system. Willian is likely to start on the right hand side as he did against Arsenal last Sunday, however it is unknown exactly who Conte will favour to play on the left. Both Jeremie Boga and Charly Musonda have been a part of Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the Far East, though it is probable that Conte will opt to play record-signing Alvaro Morata out of position in Hazard’s usual spot rather than giving one of the younger players an opportunity.
A final option is for Morata to join Batshuayi up front should Chelsea choose to play in a 3-5-2 formation with Willian moving to play centrally behind the strike duo. Regardless of the exact team selection, this is a game the Blues are undoubtedly expected to win, and supporters will be demanding nothing less than three points ahead of a tricky few fixtures in the coming weeks.