Burnley make the daunting trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday in their Premier League curtain raiser, as the Clarets look to secure an early win on the road.
Reigning champions, Chelsea, will be eyeing up a lightning fast start in front of their own fans, as they bid to become the first side to retain the Premier League crown since Manchester United in 2013.
Antonio Conte masterminded a remarkable campaign for the Blues last season, with the Italian registering 30 league wins in his first season in English football.
The former Juventus boss has endured a somewhat frustrating summer though, with several transfer targets taking longer than anticipated to come in, but now Conte has his men, Chelsea look set for another successful season.
Before Saturday’s clash, I caught up with Chelsea HQ (@Chelsea_HQ) to gauge their thoughts on how they see the game unfolding…
With Victor Moses’ absence, will there be a defensive reshuffle in order for Antonio Conte?
I fully expect Cesar Azpilicueta to take Moses’ role at right wing-back on Saturday. You often forget that the Spaniard was originally brought in as a right-back before succeeding Ashley Cole at left-back and eventually playing a central role in Antonio Conte’s back three last season. His versatility makes him the best defender in the league for me and there’s no doubt he will do his job well. All eyes will be on new signing Antonio Rudiger, who is likely to make his Premier League debut at centre-back. He performed well during the Confederations Cup with Germany, but you have to remember he suffered a bad knee injury last season, and dealing with a physical side like Burnley will be a big test for him.
New boy Alvaro Morata is expected to lead the line on Saturday. What do you make of his signing and how big a role do you think he could play at the weekend?
Out of all the strikers Chelsea were linked with during the summer, Morata was my first choice. He isn’t quite at Diego Costa’s level yet, but he has very similar traits to his compatriot and is at a perfect age to develop into an even better striker. It’ll be interesting to see whether he actually starts on Saturday, with Conte suggesting it might take him a while to adjust to the English game. If he does play, I’m hopeful he can open his account for the season early on.
Despite being without Eden Hazard, Chelsea are still blessed with some quality attacking options. Which of those should the Burnley defence be most wary of?
Chelsea didn’t have the best pre-season but Willian was one of the few players who looked very dangerous in front of goal. Him and Pedro are more than capable of replacing the Belgian if they make the right decisions in front of goal, which unfortunately isn’t always the case. Batshuayi has been hitting the gym a lot during the summer and if he plays, he could also be a big threat to Burnley’s back line.
What should Burnley fans expect of Chelsea on Saturday?
Chelsea haven’t lost a game on the opening weekend of a Premier League season since 1998, but many fans feel that Antonio Conte hasn’t been fully backed by the club this summer, leaving us relatively short in numbers. Even though everyone is buzzing for the start of the season, there may be a slightly nervy atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, especially if we don’t start well. You’d have to back Chelsea at home, but I wouldn’t completely dismiss the Claret’s chances.
Finally, how do you see the game panning out and what is your score prediction?
No doubt that atrocious title-defending season under Mourinho two years ago will still be in the heads of some players, but Conte will make sure everyone is fully focused on the task ahead. Burnley will make it very difficult for Chelsea and I expect them to sit quite deep early on. The Blues will eventually find a way through, however, I see the visitors scoring from a set piece.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our in depth Chelsea v Burnley preview!