The Premier League is back with its drama and entertainment that makes it so great. The Monday Night Football kicks off with Burnley, back off their promotion from the Championship, given arguably the most difficult of opening fixtures, playing hosts to strong title contenders Chelsea. With Chelsea needing to get off to a good start in order to build momentum for the fixtures to come, and with Burnley with not much to lose, this match has all the makings of a fantastic opening weekend encounter.
Chelsea will start off the season as many people’s favourite for the league, with Jose Mourinho having now made the signings that he feels made his squad complete. The Blues finished third last season behind Liverpool and Champions Man City but will hope for much better having also finished the season with no silverware. The main headline of the summer was the sensational return of Chelsea’s most prolific finisher in Didier Drogba – to the delight of many Blues’ fans. The summer acquisitions of Costa, Filipe Luis and Fabregas with the addition of Courtois back from his loan spell at Atletico Madrid has strengthened the team in all areas with the hope the Premier League crown will be coming to Stamford Bridge this season.
Burnley, with much surprise, won automatic promotion behind Champions Leicester with relative ease, finishing eight points ahead of Derby. Manager Sean Dyche has been fantastic since taking over in 2012 and took only two seasons to get his team into the Premier League, where they spent one season in 2009. Burnley work with a system which includes a solid spine in defence and midfield with flying full-backs in Trippier and Mee. Their main threat is the men up front with Danny Ings and Sam Vokes who blasted 41 goals between them last season. Experience in the form of Steven Reid and Matthew Taylor have been bought in as well as Lukas Jutkiewicz to add to the options up front. However, many of Burnley’s current players are yet to play in the Premier League but will take it as an opportunity to show that they can produce the same quality as they did last season.
- Diego Costa – Atletico Madrid – £32.0m
- Didier Drogba – Galatasaray – Free
- Cesc Fabregas – Barcelona – £30.0m
- Filipe Luis – Atletico Madrid – £20.0m
- Mario Pasalic – Hajduk Split – Undisclosed
- Matthew Gilks – Blackpool – Free
- Lukas Jutkiewicz – Middlesbrough – £1.5m
- Michael Kightly – Stoke City – Undisclosed
- Steven Reid – West Bromwich Albion – Free
- Marvin Sordell – Bolton Wanderers – Undisclosed
- Matthew Taylor – West Ham United – Undisclosed
Sean Dyche will be ready to unleash his players into the unknown with many of his players tasting Premier League football for the first time. New signing Lukas Jutkiewicz will be raring to go after his move from Middlesbrough and has enjoyed an excellent pre-season. Sam Vokes unfortunately suffered ligament damage to his knee towards the end of last season after scoring 20 goals which will be a huge miss but Jutkiewicz will look to make a name in his absence. The only other player missing for Burnley is Cameron Dummigan out with a thigh injury.
Chelsea’s only doubtful player is returning striker Didier Drogba after he sustained an ankle injury in pre-season but reports suggest that he should be able to shake off the knock for a place on the bench. Ramires is also out having not served the remainder of his suspension from last season. Other than that, Mourinho has a fully fit squad to choose from with Filipe Luis, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa all likely to make their debuts in a formidable line-up alongside the likes of Hazard and Oscar. There will, however, be a decision to be made as to who starts in goal for Chelsea with both the long-standing Petr Cech and newcomer Thibaut Courtois vying for a first team place.
- Chelsea the joint fewest shots on target along with Man City last season with just 122 shots on target against them.
- Cesc Fabregas has scored in his last two fixtures against Burnley.
- Chelsea conceded the least number of goals in the Premier League last season, conceding only 27 goals whilst Burnley conceded the least number of goals in the Championship last season, conceding just 37 goals.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their opening fixture since 1998, winning 13 of 15 games.
- Jose Mourinho has won all five of his opening day fixtures in his two spells as Chelsea manager.
- Burnley actually have a better head-to-head record against Chelsea with 36 wins to the Chelsea’s 28 victories, playing out 16 draws.
Aug 2009 – Chelsea 3-0 Burnley
Jan 2010 – Burnley 2-1 Chelsea
Young Englishmen Danny Ings was a crucial part of Burnley’s promotion from the Championship last season where he managed 21 goals in 40 appearances. His exceptional goal scoring record saw him net every 169 minutes as well as his 21 goals coming from only 144 shots at goal. The England U21 international also grabbed seven assists to his name, the second highest for Burnley last season. The 22-year-old has also shown that he is not afraid to have a crack at goal if given the chance with an average of 3.6 shots per game. Now Ings has shown over the past here that he can score, assist and also give defenders a nightmare, especially in the final third. The only issue is can he replicate that good form in the Premier League and show his talents on a greater stage. If so, he will be turning heads around the country and a good performance against Chelsea will be a perfect start.
Diego Costa enjoyed a rise to fame last season as he helped Atletico Madrid to a historic season in which they became the La Liga Champions and were runners up in the Champions league. In both competitions, the Spaniard international finished as the third top goal scorer, giving some indication of his impact at the club. It has been well documented that Chelsea are in need of extra goals in the forward positions and a successful La Liga season for Costa saw him net 27 goals in 35 appearances, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the best players in football at the moment, which is testament to Costa’s progress. He has not only shown that he is capable of scoring in La Liga but also in the Champions League, as mentioned he was the third top goal scorer in the Champions League behind Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scoring 8 goals in just 9 appearances. He will want to get his season off to a good start and prove that he is the player that can sort Chelsea’s goal scoring problems out.
With it being the first game of the season, both teams will be raring to go and unlikely to hold back in their approach. Chelsea obviously have the firepower in all areas of the pitch but Burnley will have the crowd firmly behind them, cheering their players to cause an almighty upset.
If Burnley do have a great game with the opposite going for Chelsea, we could see a shock result on the cards but my money is on Jose Mourinho’s men to hold firm and take the game comfortably.
My Prediction: Burnley 1-3 Chelsea
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