MX23RW : Thursday, February 21 22:57:21
Aug 12, 2017 at 3pm UK at ​Stamford Bridge
Attendance: 41,616
Morata (69'), Luiz (88')
Cahill (14'), Fabregas (81')
FT(HT: 0-3)
Vokes (24'), Ward (39', 42')

Preview: Chelsea vs. Burnley

Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Premier League meeting between defending champions Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea begin the defence of their Premier League title with a meeting against Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon, aiming to build on their impressive opening-day record of previous years.

The Blues have claimed more points (54) on matchday one than any other side in the competition's history, while the visitors are at the opposite end of the spectrum after losing all three of their past openers.


Antonio Conte poses with the trophy during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Sunderland on May 21, 2017© SilverHub

There is a sense around Stamford Bridge heading into the new campaign that all is not quite right. Boss Antonio Conte, very much the hero in his maiden campaign outside of Italian football, has made clear that he is not entirely happy with his side's transfer dealings to date.

As witnessed over many years during Sir Alex Ferguson's time at Manchester United, there is no harm in ripping up a squad and bringing in a new spine to keep things fresh after a title success, but Conte is worried by the lack of incoming players with three weeks of the window to run.

With Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata so far added, taking over from John Terry, Nemanja Matic and the soon-to-depart Diego Costa, it is hard to conclude whether the Blues have strengthened or weakened at this stage.

The pressure will be on Morata from the off, certainly, as he is expected to take over from prolific goalscorer Costa up top, but even he arrives with questions over his ability after being used largely as a bit-part player at Real Madrid and Juventus.

Worryingly for Conte, each of the past two title-winning managers have failed to last the duration of the next campaign - Claudio Ranieri joining Jose Mourinho in being sacked last time out, while prior to that Roberto Mancini just about lasted one full season after lifting the trophy in 2011-12.

The lack of serious squad depth is something that was picked up by newly-named skipper Gary Cahill after last week's Community Shield defeat to Arsenal, admitting that any sort of injury crisis over the next nine months could seriously cost his side.

A lack of European football is often seen as a blessing in disguise these days, with the past two winners both having a clean run at the title, though there is no denying that a return to the Champions League after a short absence is a major boost for the Blues.

If anything Conte now has a chance to prove that last season's hugely impressive title success, achieved with a record number of wins, was not simply down to his side being fitter than the rest, but rather a case of the smartest tactician coming out on top.

The Italian did outsmart pretty much all of his counterparts, after all, with his switch to a three-at-the-back formation a quarter of the way through the season, something which 17 other sides would go on to replicate at some point.

There was a sense late in the season that managers had sussed out how to deal with the system, though, perhaps explaining why Conte experimented a little during games, and it would come as no surprise to see him tinker with things further for this opening fixture of a gruelling campaign.

Recent form: WLWLLL


Sean Dyche watches on during the Premier League game between Burnley and Bournemouth on December 11, 2016© SilverHub

Never has the home/away divide been so telling in a Premier League campaign as it was last time out, as Burnley survived on results at Turf Moor alone over the duration of the 38-game season.

Sean Dyche was right to constantly point out that, ultimately, it matters little where the points are generated - all that counts is that his side get themselves above the dotted line by any means necessary, which they did with a fair bit of ease.

Burnley won 10 of their home games in all, two more than top-four challengers Manchester United, while accruing 33 of their 40 points on Lancashire soil. That it took until a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on April 29 to pick up their first away victory says an awful lot.

Unlike their previous taste of football at this level, the Clarets worked out how to grind out results against the sides around them, winning nine of their 13 home matches against teams from outside the division's top six.

If Burnley fail to replicate this impressive Turf Moor form in 2017-18 then they could be in trouble, though, as goals also proved a real problem - none of the surviving sides scored fewer than their 39 - while the departure of some experienced heads has also left them a little light.

While Michael Kightly, George Boyd, Joey Barton and Paul Robinson can all be replaced, the loss of Michael Keane will surely be felt, not to mention losing nine-goal scorer Andre Gray with the new campaign just a few days away. Leading marksman Sam Vokes will now have an even bigger role to play up top.

Dyche is frantically trying to bring in some defensive cover in the remaining weeks of the window, so far being restricted to just young full-back Charlie Daniels from Leeds United and the far more experienced Phil Bardsley from Stoke City.

Many bookmakers have Burnley among those to face to drop this campaign, which is not all that surprising when taking into account their transfer business, though Dyche is the type of manager who has proved in the past that he can thrive off the underdog nature.

Only time will tell on that front, but with a fairly tough start to kick things off - Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton in succession on their travels up to October 1 - it may be a long year ahead for Dyche & Co.

Recent form: LWWWDW

Team News

Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action during the Premier League match against Watford on May 15, 2017© SilverHub

Victor Moses will sit this one out after picking up a red card in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal last May, yet Pedro is free to play due to the Community Shield officially being classed as a friendly.

Bakayoko is still a few weeks away from full fitness following his move from AS Monaco, meanwhile, and Eden Hazard will be nursing a damaged ankle for the foreseeable future.

A lot of weight will be on the shoulders of Morata, who scored more goals per game than any player in La Liga last season other than Lionel Messi, and he could lead the way if Conte opts to stick with his 3-4-3 hybrid of last season.

In terms of the visitors, Jonathan Walters and Jack Cork are pushing for full debuts after joining from Stoke and Swansea City respectively, but Taylor and Bardsley are expected to watch on for this one.

As Dyche continues his search for a new central defender, James Tarkowski is favourite to step in alongside Ben Mee at the back - another who impressed on the Clarets' return to this level.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill, Alonso; Fabregas, Kante; Willian, Morata, Pedro

Burnley possible starting lineup:
Heaton; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward; Arfield, Cork, Hendrick, Brady; Vokes, Walters

Head To Head

These two sides have met on six previous occasions in the Premier League, with Burnley yet to pick up all three points.

The Clarets have held Chelsea twice before, though, earning a 1-1 draw in their most recent encounter in February and playing out a draw by the same scoreline at Stamford Bridge in February 2015.

In fact, the defending champions have won only once in the past three league meetings, with that being a comfortable 3-0 triumph early last season before they truly clicked into gear.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Chelsea 2-0 Burnley

Leicester City last season became the first defending champions to lose their opening match - a feat that Chelsea will be desperately hoping to avoid. The Blues were by far the best team in the country last time around but there appear to be some murmurs of discontent, meaning that any sort of shaky start could see the wheels come off again, much like in their previous title defence a couple of years ago.

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Who will win Saturday's Premier League meeting between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge?

Sean Dyche watches on during the Premier League game between Bournemouth and Burnley on May 13, 2017
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